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Pre-Roman, Slavic toponyms of the ancient Balkans

During the years of research of the ancient history of the Balkans, I have encountered many words that sound Slavic. Many of these words predate the alleged arrival of the Slavs between the 5th-6th centuries AD. With time, I realised that the list of such words is too large to be ignored. Even the most ancient name of the Balkan peninsula – Helm, can best be explained through Slavic xъlmъ (hulm – hill).

As this is a list, I will add just a short explanation after each word. There are many other articles on this website that deal with these alternative theories in more detail. Also, I will write from the top of my head, so there will be some updates in the future.

And finally, there are many more toponyms that can be connected to Slavic languages, but here I decided to stick only with the most obvious examples.

So, without further ado, we will start with some toponyms from Pannonia. The illustration comes from the Ptolemy’s “Geography”, 2nd century AD, Tabula V.

Pannonia

1. Serbinum

The city of Serbinum once stood in the Roman province of Pannonia. The first mention comes from the map of Ptolemy, in the 2nd century AD, although the city probably predated the Romans. Scholars identify Serbinum with modern-day Gradishka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Gradishka (loosely translated as “old town”) lies in the part of Bosnia that is called “Republika Srpska” and its predominant population are Serbs. However, most scholars believe that this ancient toponym has nothing to do with Serbs, it’s just a bizzare coincidence.

Another coincidence is that Pliny mentions the tribe called Serapilli in this same region. Modern scholars see them as Celts.

2. Osseriates

We see them as “Oderiates” on this map, but the version Osseriates was more common in other ancient sources. Once again, scholars label them as Celts by default. In reality, the etymology of their name is unknown, as is virtually anything else about them.

They lived near the lake Balaton, a large lake that dominates the landscape of flat fertile plains in modern-day Hungary. For this reason, many Slavic researchers have connected their name with the Old East Slavic word for lake – ozero.

3. Bolentium

The name Bolentium sounds very close to the name of the lake Balaton, and it also matches its approximate location on the map. According to Wikipedia, the name Balaton comes from the Slavic word “bolto/blato”, meaning “mud, swamp”. This is supposed to be the direct translation of the Roman name for the swamp – Pelsodis, Pelso.

However, if this is really a Slavic toponym from the 2nd century, it is more likely that it was the Romans who translated the name of the lake.

4. Sogora

Sogora sounds very similar to the common Slavic toponym “Zagora” (a place behind the hill, forest). There are literally dozens of such toponyms all around the Slavic speaking countries. But more importantly, there is one Zagora that perfectly matches the location. It is a village in Bosnia, the Trebinje region. The region of Trebinje belonged to the Latobici tribe.

5. Latobici

The etymology of this name is unknown. Similar toponyms do exist in Slavic countries – see Latowicz in Poland or Lytovezh in Ukraine.

6. Mursella

Mursella was a city on the Mur river. According to Wikipedia, this name is Slavic and comes from the word “dark”.

7. Lugionum

Also known as Lugio. Strabo claimed that the Illyrian word for swamp was “lugas”. For Slavs, that word is “lug” (swamp, meadow) and it appears in numerous toponyms.

8. Carnus

Carnus lies in the proximity of Sacrabanta, modern-day Sopron, and today we know it as Caruntum in Austria. The etymology of this word is unknown, but perhaps we can relate it to the nearby Csorna. As you can see on Wikipedia, it was Slavs who named this city (when?) that now lies on the border between Hungary and Austria. Its name means “black”. (see the etymology here)

9. Corrodunu

Interestingly, Ptolemy knew one more city of Corrodunum. And this wasn’t just any city – it was the modern-day Krakow, Poland! The etymology of this name is obscure, and at first glance, the suffix “dunu” points to the Celtic origin (dun – hill, dunon – castle).

However, as with many other toponyms on Ptolemy’s maps, this could be a misspelt word “Gradina” – a common Slavic word for an old city. There are more than twenty such placenames in Slavic countries, but most are in the Balkans.

Also, scolars actually believe that Corrodunu matches the locality Gradina in Croatia! Gradina lies on the Drava river, precisely where we would expect it to be based on Ptolemy’s map.

The connection between this Corrodunum and the Krakow in Poland is very important, as we will now see.

10. Boei

Boei, or more commonly spelt Boii, are also supposed to be Celts. However, the most logical (and virtually only) etymology for their name comes from Slavic “soldiers, army”. See the Proto-Slavic etymology here. And army is precisely what the Boii were. I wrote a separate article on them, so I will not go into greater detail here. But here is a summary of the most important facts.

Buckle up, as this is the mainstream version of history, and it gets really wierd:

Boii, whose name makes the most sense in Slavic, lived in Pannonia, amongst Serapilli and near Serbinum, but there were no Slavs or Serbs there, only Celts. From here, Boii moved to Bratislava, Slovakia and ended up in Bohemia, Poland. But back then, there were no Slavs in these countries either, only Germans and Celts. Remember, in the 2nd century AD, there were two cities named Corrodunu known to Ptolemy – one was in Poland and the other one was in the Balkans.

And so, the Celtic Boii gave name to their new home in Bohemia, Poland and disappeared from the face of the earth.

Later, in the 6th century, massive numbers of Slavs appeared from nowhere and started occupying large parts of Europe. Poland (and Bohemia) was inhabited by Serbs and Sorbs, two Slavic groups that (according to western historians) just happen to share the name but, in fact, are not too closely related. Anyhow, the Sorbs decided to stay in this new-founded homeland and ended up being Germanized for the most part.

On the other hand…

Serbs left Bohemia in Poland and (of all places) decided to settle in the ancestral lands of the Boii in the Balkans. In the 10th century, a Byzanthian emperor claims that Serbs still call their Polish homeland Boika (Bohemia).

All clear? I am not going to give you the alternative version. This is the official, mainstream history, and I will leave this here and let it sink.

11. Bononia = Pannonia – the homeland of the Boii

Now that we defined who the Boii (officially) were, I would like to add my theory of the etymology of the name Pannonia itself. According to Pocorny, it comes from the Proto-Indo-European root “pen”, meaning “swamp”.

I believe that the root lies in the name of the Boii – warriors, army. Namely, even today, the Serbian name for Pannonia is “Vojvodina” – which means “Earl’s land”. The root of the word “vojvoda” (earl) is “voi” – meaning “battle”, the same as Old Church Slavonic “boi”.

Moreover, the Serbian name for a central part of Pannonia is Banat. The root of this word is the title “ban“, which is attested already in the 10th century and officially means “lord, master”. But the oldest meaning of this word must have been “earl” as scholars reconstruct its root as “boian” – meaning “ruler of the horde” in Pannonian Avar, or simply “warrior” in Slavic.

This title “ban” is characteristic for the Balkans. In Western Slavic countries it is first attested in the 14th century, but as softened “pan”. The word is still in use in most of these countries.

However, it seems that the similar linguistic change took place in antiquity. Namely, as the Greeks do not have the sound “B”, they hand no choice but to label it as “Pann-onia”. Later the Romans must have acquired this word from the Greeks.

I think that my theory is much more plausible than the load of nonsence that you can read about these etymologies. As a final proof, I would like to add the city of Bologna, in Italy. Its ancient name was “Bononia” and it was named like this because of the same Boii, who had moved here to fight the Romans, together with the Etruscans.

Of course, as the Romans didn’t have the problem with the sound “B”, there was no reason to change “Bononia” to “Panonia”. The same goes for Boulogne sur Mer in France, also called “Bononia” and also founded by the same Boii. And not to mention that this toponym Bologna, pronounced with the soft “P” sounds like “Pologna” – Poland, which could be the alternative explanation for the name of the country.

The city of Bononia that we see on this map was the capital of the Boii in Pannonia. its location corresponds to modern-day Banostor. According to Wikipedia, this is an early medieval name meaning “Earl’s monastery” and this name has nothing to do with the ancient Bononia that was located on the same place. (???)

12. Bustricius river

River Bustricius was mentioned in the Upper Pannonia (Rav). It does not appear on the map of Ptolemy, and it is not identified. The most commonly proposed etymology relates it to Slavic “bystro” – meaning “quick/clear”. There are quite a few rivers and streams with this name in the Slavic world.

13. Ulcisia, Ulca, Ulcaea, Ulcinj

Different authors mention different places with this root. River Vuka for example, in modern Croatia, was known as Ulca in antiquity. (Peut., Ennod) or Volcea (Dio Cass.) Obviously, the word means “wolf” in Slavic languages (volk, from Proto Balto Slavic wilkas). This same logic was applied to the name of Ulcinj, Montenegro. Shockingly, the Wikipedia article on Ulcinj claims that the word for the wolf comes from Albanian, and nobody has a problem with that!

Illyria – countries of the Adriatic coast

1. Trieste, Italy and Trogir, Croatia

According to the mainstream theory, the name of Trieste (originally Tergeste, Tergestum) comes from the Illyrian word “terg” – market. The only cognate in any language is the Old Church Slavonic “tьrgъ”. The same etymology probably works for Trogir, Croatia.

Now, you might say that this proves nothing and that Slavs simply adopted this term from Illyrians in the 6th century, which would be a valid point. But hold your horses…

In Spain, there is a city called Trujillo. Its ancient name was Turgalium, etymology unknown. Turgalium belonged to the region Lusitania, which just happened to host a tribe called Seurbi. These Seurbi spoke a non-Celtic, Indo-European language, still unknown. However, (you guessed it) these Suerbi have nothing to do with the Serbs or Sorbs who are by the way, also known as Lusitani.

Its just another really bizzare coincidence…

Also, if you think that Spain is too far from Pannonia and Poland, just remember that the Boii actually fought Caesar in modern-day France. That is a historical fact.

2. Epidamnos, Albania

Scolars identify Epidamnos with Durres, Albania. The whole region around the city was known as Epidamnia in ancient times. The legend says that the Romans didn’t like the name, as “damnos” means “cursed” so they changed it to Dyrachium. However, there is no explanation why was this city “cursed” in the first place.

The Greek suffix “epi” means “before, pro” and put together, this compound word is a direct translation of the name for the unhospitable mountain chain that Serbs call Prokletije (cursed mountains) and that lies not too far from this region.

3. Albanopolis, Albania

Officially, Albanopolis was the seat of the Albani, a tribe that gave name to modern Albania. However, as the word “alba” means “white” and “polis” means “city”, we can also translate this name as “white city”, or in Slavic version “Belgrade” as in the capital of Serbia. The location of Albanopolis is unknown, but what is certain is that it is in general proximity to the city of Berat, which is officially a modern corruption of the original Slavic name – Belgrade.

That Belgrade (and white city) is typicaly, a Slavic construction can be proven by the fact that both Moscow and Kyiv, arguably the two most important Slavic cities, were called “Belgrade” at one point in time. There are many other similar toponyms in Slavic countries. And interestingly, even the name of Vienna, Austria, was once Vindobona, which translates to “white city”. On the first map, we can see it just above the Boii territory, in the top left corner, but Ptolemy marks it as Iulio Bona.

Macedonia

1. Byalazora

The city of Byalazora was mentioned in the 2nd century AD by authors such as Polybius and Livius. It was the city of Paeonians before it got captured by the armies of Philip V. Many alternative historians have noticed that this name would mean “white dawn” in Slavic languages.

However, it should be said that the “white dawn” toponym has no paralels in other Slavic countries, and that is a bit strange. Slavic toponyms are quite predictable and they repeat over and over again, from the Balkans to Siberia.

It could be that the word is a corruption of “Vila Azorum”, as the city called Azorum does exist on the Ptolemy’s map. Similar explanation exists for the town Vilassar in Spain.

2. Gordynia

The name Gordynia could be another corruption of the Slavic toponym “gradina”. Most scholars agree that the root “gord” means “a city”, and they label the word as Phrygian. Indeed, Gordion was a famous city of the Phrygians. In the middle ages, it was known as Gordo-Serbon or Gordo-Serba…

3. Stobi

On Ptolemy’s map, Stobi is very close to Gordynia. The city still exists under the same name. Its name means “columns” in Slavic, and this is the official etymology of its name. (compare with Sanskrit “stupa”). The name probaly refered to a group of ancient dolmens or some natural formation such as Pobiti Kamani in Bulgaria.

4. Aedesa

Next to Gordinia and Stobi we see Aedesa. In antiquity there were many cities with such name, mainly on the territory of ancient Thrace, for example ancient Varna in Bulgaria or modern-day Edessa in Turkey. Scolars agree that the name is derived from the word for water – which is “voda” in Slavic, but “hydro” in Greek. Also “Vode” / “Vodice” are very popular Slavic toponyms.

5. Corabia

The city of Corabia lies on the mountain chain that is today known as Korab. As you can see here, korab is exlusivly a Slavic word, and a comon Slavic toponym, sometimes precisly as Korab, as for example, is the case of a village in Bulgaria, or a city in Romania. But even more commonly we see it as “brod”, which is another word for ship.

The association between mountain tops and ships is very ancient, perhaps even as old as the flood narratives.

5. Tristolus

Tristolus (on the north) is probably one of the most interesting toponyms in Macedonia. It’s name would mean “three chairs” or “three thrones” in Slavic languages. This toponym is Slavic without any doubt, as there is a place that Czechs call Tristolicnik in Bavaria, Germany. Germans translated this name to Dreisesselberg – three chairs.

Without any doubt, the Slavic toponym is older than German, and we see the same toponym in ancient Macedonia, in the 2nd century AD!

As for what those “thrones” are, I believe that these were astronomical observation points, typical for megalithic observatories. One such example is Kokino, in North Macedonia, located in the general area of the ancient Tristolus. The thrones of Kokino are one of the main reasons that NASA listed this site as one of the top 10 ancient observatories in the world.

6. Stenae

This ancient toponym sounds like “stene” – rocks in Slavic languages. And this is precisely what it is. see Stenae.

Thrace

1. Divsipara, Turkey (on the Balkan side)

I discovered this city recently, and to my knowledge, Ptolemy is the only person who mentions it. I couldn’t find any other info online, nor have I ever heard anybody mention it. What caught my eye is that it sounds very close to Divcibare, a famous mountain in Serbia. In the case of the Serbian toponym, the etymology is more-less clear. It is a compound word, made of the words “divci” which means “girl’s” or and “bare” meaning “small lakes”. In other words, these were probably famous baths in antiquity.

Confirmation for this etymology comes from Czech “Dívčí Hrad” (girl’s town) whose German name is a litteral translation – Maidelberg. Whether we can relate it to Divsipara of Ptolemy is of course questionable. But interestingly, this area of Turkey known for its floodplains, it is full of small lakes and waterfalls – see İğneada Floodplain Forests National Park.

2. Crybyzy

We know virtually nothing of this tribe, but some Slavic authors claim that this was a misspelt name of the Krivichs (Kryvichi), one of the most important Slavic tribes, and the founders of Kyiv. Kyiv is not too far from the place marked on the map. Their name was perhaps supposed to mean “of the same blood.”

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Does Cerne Abbas Giant represent the Orion constellation?

Cerne Abbas Giant is the most famous British geoglyph and a century-old mystery. What is certain is that it has been standing on the hillside in Dorset for many centuries. What is not is when it was placed there, by whom, and for what reason. Most early scholars believed that an image of a naked man with a club must be thousands of years old, coming from the Bronze Age, or at least the early Iron Age. Some opted for the Roman Age Britain. However, a recent study claims that the geoglyph is “only” a thousand years old – making it one of the last echoes of the beliefs of pre-Christian Britain.

But more intriguing than the dating was, of course, the symbolism. And once again, there’s never been a shortage of ideas. It has been said that this naked giant represents a Celtic or Saxon fertility deity, Greek Hercules (made by Romans), and a plethora of other famous lords and kings from British history. Evidentlly, the fertility notion comes from the giant’s phallus. According to the local folklore, sitting next to this phallus, or even better, copulating upon it, was an effective cure for infertility.

Cerne Abbas Giant as Orion constellation

My theory was already clear from the title of this article. Many years ago, when I first saw the Cerne Abbas Giant, I knew that what I see is just another example of Orion imagery. However, seeing that nobody else is proposing this theory, I’ve now decided to write this short article. So here is my take on it.

The constellation Orion was also known as the “Giant” to the ancients as it is one of the most prominent constellations of the night sky. It is also one of only a few human images amongst the stars. Because of its size and easily identifiable triplet of bright stars on his “belt”, the ancients used Orion for navigation, as well as the seasonal marker.

Nowadays, we know it as “Orion – the Hunter”, and this is precisely how the most ancient and the most widespread starlore saw this constellation. Orion was an archetype of a warrior-hunter, and his weapon had been constantly upgraded as civilisation advanced. The oldest weapon known to man was probably the club. Of course, this is the same club that Hercules holds, as the Greeks inherited the image from an even earlier culture. Later, the club was replaced by a mace, and finally, somewhere between the Bronze and the Iron age, Orion became an archer.

But the role of the hunter was not Orion’s only role. To many ancient cultures, Orion represented a fertility god. This was because the Orion constellation appears during the rainy months of autumn. It advances up on the horizon, reaching its peak around the solstice in the “underworld” of the winter months. From there, it slowly descends, disappearing behind the horizon during the rainy season of spring. Orion stays completely invisible during the summer months, when life on Earth blooms, fertilised by the spring rain or the saviour’s blood – his ultimate sacrifice. For this reason, the Egyptians saw Orion as Osiris, the Thracians and the Greeks as Dionysus, and these are just some of his names.

Another reason for the association with fertility was Orion’s phallus. The ancients saw it in the cluster of stars known as Orion nebula, positioned right under Orion’s belt. Later, the image of a sword replaced the phallus. But this was not a significant change as the “sword” has often been just a code word for the phallus in the language of the ancient myths.

And finally, if we compare the image of the Cerne Abbas Giant with the typical image of Orion, we can immediately see that they are very similar, especially when it comes to the position of the arms. One arm is raised in the air, holding a club – typical Orion imagery. The other one is extended in the same direction in both cases. And, of course, the idea of fertility, represented by the phallus, is also present in both images.

In conclusion, I can’t say who and when drew this 180 feet giant on the hills of Dorset, but I am pretty confident that whoever did it wanted to depict the Orion constellation. And while the geoglyph might indeed be only one thousand years old, the image that it shows is an archetype that goes back thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. If this is a geoglyph from the Middle ages, as the latest study claims, it would be fascinating to discover where the artistic inspiration came from, as the stone age club was already outdated at this time. And perhaps that is the biggest mystery here. How could we, the modern people, so quickly forget these traditions of our ancestors, preserved for countless generations before us.

On a side note, Orion’s phallus, represented by the Orion nebula, is a place modern science calls “the cradle of stars”. It is believed that most of the stars of our solar system were formed (born) in this white cloud. Indeed, the ancients could hardly find a place more suitable to represent the phallus of the fertility god.

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Trojan horse – the truth behind the myth

The story of the Trojan horse is one of the most memorable episodes from the Illiad. Naturally, the ancient Greeks loved it. It portrayed them as intelligent and cunning, in contrast to the gullible Phrygians of Troy. But for the others, it was the uniqueness of the idea that made the story so great. Because, who in the world builds a sizeable wooden horse during the battle and leaves it out in the open, hoping that the enemy will eventually take it inside their city walls?

However, in 2016, an Italian naval archaeologist, Francesco Tiboni, presented a new and exciting idea. In short, the Trojan horse never existed in the original version of the Illiad. It was simply an error in translation, confusion caused by two homonyms.

Namely, the ancient Greek word for “horse” – hippo, was also used for ancient Phoenician cargo boats in antiquity. These boats were often transporting treasures and would have made an appropriate votive gift. This fact was not necessarily known to the mainland Greeks who came centuries after Homer, and the confusion was made already in antiquity.

Indeed, it sounds much more plausible that the Greeks would leave a cargo ship on the beach and hide inside of a secret compartment. For this reason, Mr Tiboni’s theory has caused a small sensation in the archaeological circles over the past couple of years. But the media support didn’t follow, and the saga of the Trojan horse continues even to this day.

Trojan horse as the constellation Argo Navis

I wrote a separate article about the astronomical symbolism of Argonautica (here), as well as another one on the astronomical symbolism of the Odyssey (here). Knowing that most of the ancient myths use the same stellar template, I was curious whether the Trojan boat could relate to Argo Navis.

The constellation Argo Navis had been the largest constellation known to man until it was broken down into three parts in the 18th century. To the ancient Greeks, it represented Argo, the ship of Jason and his argonauts. However, the origins of the Jason myth are probably Caucasian, as the mainland Greeks could not see this constellation. In classical times it stayed below the horizon during the night.

Because of its proximity to the Milky Way, or the celestial river, this constellation was known as “the boat” in both Vedic India and ancient Egypt. Scholars assume that the Greeks borrowed the idea from the Egyptians, somewhere around 1,000 BC.

Argo Navis and Sirius

The Argo constellation was significant to the Egyptians. In its proximity lies the star Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky. Sirius was highly revered as it marked the annual flooding of the Nile river. But even the Persians had the same association. They saw it as a deity Thistrya, the rainmaker. However, the most famous representation comes from the Old Testament, where Argo Navis represented the Ark of the Covenant. This also is where the motif of the flood fits perfectly.

The constellation Columba – the dove, represents the dove that brought the news of the dry land to Noah. However, this is a 16th-century addition, influenced by Christianity. Columba constellation was not known to ancients, although this doesn’t mean that they didn’t see a dove in some other neighbouring cluster of stars.

Canopus – the brightest star of Argo Navis

Constellation Argo Navis consisted of some 160 easily visible stars. But the most important one was Canopus.

Canopus is the second-brightest star of the night sky. As such, it was used for navigation by many ancient civilisations, from bedouins of the desert to the seafarers of Polynesia. The southeastern wall of Kaaba in Mecca is aligned to the rising point of this star.

Isn’t it, therefore, amusing that during the Trojan war, the pilot of the Menelaus ship was named Canopus? According to the myth, he even visited Egypt, where he was bitten by a serpent. They buried him at one of the mouths of the river Nile and the Egyptian city Canopus was later established at this place.

But that is not all. Even among the men hidden inside the Trojan horse, there was one named Cyanippus – the name that sounds somewhat similar to Canopus. In fact, different ancient sources provide different numbers of Achaeans who were hidden in the horse. They varied between 23-50 and were later standardised to 40. All of these forty names are known. This begs the question: What if what they represented were the most prominent stars of the Argo Navis constellation?

This idea was not necessarily foreign to ancient Greeks, who depicted the warriors’ heads (stars) scattered around the body of the Trojan horse. (see the first image)

Achilles and the rising of Sirius in the Iliad

There are numerous references to stars and planets in the Iliad, reinforcing the theory that the story was based on star lore. But in this context, the most interesting one would be the arrival of Achilles to Troy, announced by the rising of the Sirius.

“Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent…”

Rising of Sirius, followed by Canopus of Argo Navis

Achilles, the greatest of the warriors, was probably a personification of Orion. He was usually depicted with one arm raised, mimicking the shape of the constellation. Orion lies in the proximity of Sirius and Argo Navis.

Laocoön as Ophiuchus

According to the myth, Laocoön was a Trojan who suspected that something is wrong with this “horse” and begged the Greeks to burn it instead of taking it inside of the city walls. The famous saying: “I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts”, is attributed to him. But before he could convince the Trojans, the gods killed him with two venomous serpents.

Interestingly, in Classical art, he was portrayed much like the constellation Ophiuchus – the serpent bearer, complete with the altar (the constellation Ara) underneath his leg. Of course, the constellation Ophiuchus is relatively close to the constellation Argo Navis.

Conlusion

The connection between the Trojan horse and the constellation Argo Navis was not possible until 2016 when Mr Tiboni proposed his groundbreaking theory. In this article, I tried to shed light on some of the further implications.

Without a doubt, Iliad and Odyssey come from a very turbulent period of history. During those centuries, numerous invaders passed through the region, some coming from the land, the others from the sea. Countless ancient cultures met for the first time. But it was not only death and destruction that took place – at the same time, there was undoubtedly an incredible cultural exchange. Before the Achaean ships reached this part of the world, first came the Sea peoples, followed by Phoenicians, whose ships reached even the shores of Kerala, India. Therefore, I am not saying that the core events described in the Illiad had never happened. Almost by definition, ancient myths are a mixture of supernatural and historical events, and the real challenge is separating the two.

On the other hand, the star lore template of the Iliad predates its narrative by hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some authors believe that the constellation Argo Navis was known even to the ancient Sumerians. This is more than likely, as the Sumerians had the flood myth, with the ark included. And this myth was probably only a memory of the actual flood that happened some 12,000 years ago, during the Younger Dryas.

However, somewhere between the 2nd and 1st millennia BC, when the first Mediterranean explorers started discovering the seas, the constellation Argo Navis became important once again. This time, Argo was not an ark that will save the chosen, but a vessel that will take them to the realms of glory and marvel. It is therefore hardly a coincidence that separated by only centuries, Argonautica, Iliad, and the Odyssey, use very similar language – the language of the sea navigators.

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Radegast and Simargl – two Slavic gods that never existed

Radegast was a god of sacred hospitality from a hypothetical Slavic pantheon reconstructed in the recent centuries. His name is a compound word and means “dear (welcomed) guest”. However, the earliest sources that speak of this god were all non-Slavic. Radegast was never mentioned in any early Slavic chronicles, and no traces of his cult and worship exist in the Slavic folklore.

Thietmar’s chronicle

The first mention of Radegast comes from Saxon Thietmar’s chronicle, written at the beginning of the 11th century and referring to events that had happened a century earlier. And yet, for Thietmar, “Riedegost” was a toponym, name of the fortified city, not a name of a deity. In his own words:

“In the region of the Redarii (a Slavic tribe), there is a bourg called Riedegost…”

– Thietmar VI 23.

He continues with the description of this town, which had three towers and three gates and was surrounded by a sacred forest. In the middle of the fortress, there was a wooden shrine whose foundation was decorated with horns of different animals. The outer walls of the shrine were adorned with sculptures of various gods and goddesses, wearing helmets and shields. Each deity had a name inscribed, but Thietmar does not mention these names. He concludes that from all these gods, it is Zuarsici (Swarozyc) that is revered as the first and foremost.

In other words, he doesn’t mention the god Radegast at all. For him, this is just the name of the settlement of a tribe whose chief deity was Svarozic.

Adam of Bremen and Helmold

A few decades after Thietmar, Adam of Bremen mentions “Redigast” again, this time as a Slavic god. He states that in Rethra, capital city of the Retharii tribe, there is a large temple dedicated to demons, of whom most important is Redigast.

“His statue was made of gold and his temple is adorned in purple”.

Adam of Bremen, Skolion 16

He continues with the description of this city, “four days’ travel away from Hamburg”. This time, we learn that the city had nine gates and not three, as Thietmar stated. However, this could simply be a Christian allusion to the nine gates of hell, Adam’s invention whose goal was to show that these pagans are devil worshipers.

And finally, in the 12th century, Helmold mentions Redigast again as the deity. But he doesn’t provide any new information, and scholars assume that he was relying mainly on the Adam of Bremen’s account.

The city of Rethra (Redigast)

What is certain is that the city of Rethra existed. This name comes from the Slavic tribe of Redarians (Redari, Redarii) – a part of the Lutici confederation. However, the original name of the city in the Slavic language was Radegast. Indeed, different medieval sources name this city as Radagoszcz, Radegost, Radigast, Redigast, Radgosc…

Moreover, there are many similar toponyms even today, in various Slavic countries (see Radogoszcz). And the list grows much longer if we add those toponyms with the word “gost” (guest) as a prefix or suffix. Some of the examples are Gostilje, Gostinje, Gostyn, Gostynin, Gostivar, Gostun, Gostusa, and many, many others, scattered all across Slavic lands from the Balkans to Russia.

Art by Svevolod Ivanov

On Slavic sacred hospitality

The assumption that Radegast was a god of sacred hospitality is therefore not without any grounds. The only problem is that this was simply a toponym, not a name of a deity. In ancient Greece, for example, the term for sacred hospitality was Xenia. Known at least from the times of Illiad and Oddysey, the belief was, in short, that a god may visit your home, disguised as a weary traveller. Those who show him hospitality might be rewarded, and those who refused it might be cursed.

Other ancient civilisations had similar customs. But in all cases, this was the sacred law, not an attribute of a specific deity. Slavic god Radegast would therefore be an exception.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that Slavic hospitality has been one of the main cultural traits from times immemorial. Here are some examples from the chronicles mentioned above:

Accoridng to Adam of Bremen:

“Nowehere can one find more honorable and more hospitable people”.

And according to Helmold:

“So far as morals and hospitality were concerned, a more honorable or kindlier folk could not be found”.

“There I learnt from experience, what before I knew by report, that no people is more distinguished in its regard for hospitality than the Slavs.” In this light they are “all of one mind” and regard the most hospitable as the most manful.

“Regard for hospitality and respect for parents stand as prime virtues among Slavs”.

Zuarisci / Swarozyc – The main deity of Slavs

We saw that Radegast was only a toponym, referring to the sacred law of hospitality, for which Slavs are famous. But in that case, who was the chief god of the Redarii, whom Thietmar labels as Swarozyc?

In fact, this deity is well-known in Slavic folklore, and there are quite a few ancient stories and poems mentioning this name. Sometimes the name is Swarog, and sometimes Swarozyc, which is a diminutive form. This led some of the modern researchers to conclude that Swarozyc was a son of Swarog, and that these are two separate deities.

But first things first. The etymology of the name Swarog could come from Sanskrit “Swarga“, meaning “sky, heaven”. Alternatively, the root comes from Persian “Hvar“, meaning “Shiny, Sun”. But either way, these two terms are related, and they only confirm the Scytho-Sarmatian Slavic origins.

Therefore, Swarog was probably the personification of the Sun. This claim is further supported by Addam of Bremen’s claim that his statue was made of gold. But more importantly, Sun was indeed worshipped as the chief god, the ultimate image of an invisible God, all across the Indo-European world.

Indeed, representations of Radegast of a later date portray him with the (Sun) shield (Sun in Taurus?) and a bird on his head. Nothing to do with hospitality. At the same time, this iconography must be truly ancient, as similar images exist all across the ancient world, and they are usually related to shamanism and Sun worship.

However, the most striking parallels come from the helmets labelled as “Celtic” and dated to the first centuries AD. Take, for example, the Ciumeşti helmet, discovered in Transylvania, Romania, or the depiction of a warrior from the Gundestrup cauldron (found in Denmark but made in the Balkans). If anything, these images speak of unbroken continuity.

Swarog vs Swarozyc

It is improbable that Swarog and Swarozyc were two separate deities. More probably, they relate to the Sun’s position in different seasons. The summer solstice, when Sun is at its highest peak, dominating the sky, would be the realm of Swarog. And on the opposite side, we have the winter solstice, when the days are shortest, and the Sun is “reborn”. This would be the realm of Swarozyc.

As further support to this claim, it is interesting to add that the Slavs of the Balkans call Christmass “Bozic” to this day. The word “Bozic” is a diminutive of “Bog” – God. From the Christian perspective, this name simply marks the birth of Christ, the young god. But most probably, this was just an acceptable substitute for the original pagan word “Swarozyc” during Christianization. Moreover, in Slavic languages, even the word for Sun – “Sunce/Solnce” is diminutive in itself.

The ancient hymns to Swarozyc were sung around the winter solstice. And funny enough, in the big picture, Christianity did not really bring anything new here, except that it changed the ancient terminology.

Svetovid vs Swarog

Another deity that is commonly regarded as the chief deity of the Slavs was Svetovid. Medieval chronicles mention him mainly as the chief deity of the Rujani, another Slavic tribe. However, Svetovid, or Vid was a highly revered deity even amongst the Balkan Slavs. After the Christianization, his cult was replaced by that of St. Vitus, and the famous cathedral of Prague is just one proof of the importance of this deity amongst Slavs.

An interesting episode was recorded by both Helmond and Saxo Grammaticus. They stated that somewhere around the 12th century, the Rani fell away from their Christian faith, chased away all the priests from their cities, but continued to worship St. Vitus, not as a saint, but as a god.

So who was Svetovit? His name is a compound word. The first part means “bright, holy” but could also come from “svet” meaning the world. The other part “vit/vid” probably comes from “videti” to see, or “veda” to know. In other words “the one who sees the world”.

The statues of Svetovit were four-headed, just like in the case of the Vedic Brahma. Scolars assume that this is because he can see all four corners of the world, or simply because there are four seasons in a year. If we add to this his another attribute “Byali” – white, shining, it seems that Svetovit is simply another personification of the Sun.

Here are some of the representations of the four-headed gods, including the Slavic idol found in Zbruch, Poland, thought to represent Svetovid.

brahma-zbruch, Slavs, India
brahma-zbruch, Slavs, India

Indeed, Sun was seen as the “eye of the sky” in many ancient myths. Take for example the eye of Horus from Egyptian mythology. (Not to mention that the statue of Radegast had a bird on its head). But there is another, better example, in the very neighborhood of the Baltic Slavs.

Svetovit as Odin

In Norse mythology, the god Odin hanged himself from a tree in a search of knowledge. Eventually, he had to give his right eye as the final sacrifice. The famous stanca from Voluspa states:

“I know where Othin’s eye is hidden, deep in the wide-famed well of Mimir”

The man hanging from a tree is most probably an allusion to the constellation of Orion, on the background of the Milky Way, often seen as the world tree. Indeed, in many ancient cultures, Orion / Osyris / Dyonisus was portrayed as if coming out of a tree or a wooden coffin. For Slavs, Orion was a representation of the thunder god – Perun, and it seems that for this reason, modern scholars are unable to differentiate between Svetovit and Perun.

However, the Sun is clearly the missing eye of Odin (the other one being the Moon) that disappeared in another realm, that of the “well of Mimir”, a poetic description of the blue skies, often seen as cosmic water, the realm of the living. For this reason he is able to observe what the mortals are doing during the day, when they are active. Slavic pantheon likely followed the same logic. Oaths were taken under the name of Svetovid, and many important events and battles were held on his day, which fell just a few days short of the summer solstice.

Another name for the Sun god of the Slavs was Rod (Chrodo) and Kol/Koleda. Both of these words come from the root meaning “wheel”, and refer to the ancient symbology in which Sun was represented as such. In short, we can conclude that the chief god of the Slavs, just like in virtually any Indo-European pantheon, was the Sun god.

Simargl – another Slavic god that never existed

Just like with Radegast, the name of Simargl is foreign to Slavic mythology. The first mentions of Simargl come from the Slavic medieval chronicles. The 12th-century Primary chronicle allegedly mentions this deity. However, two centuries later, the same quote was written differently in Слово некоего христолюбца и ревнителя по правой вере.

Here it says: “веруют… и в Сима и в Рьгла” – They believe… in Sima and (E)rgila. This in later copies of the text became – “Си(ѣ)марьгл” – Simargl. Most likeley, the letters “ь” and “г” were mistaken for “ы” in copies of a later date.

The deity Ergil is without a doubt Yarilo, the well-known Slavic god of spring, fertility, and war. As for the Sim (Сѣм) the etymology is less clear. But if we see the alleged images of Simargl, it is quite likely that the root lies in the Sanskrit simha – the lion, referring to the constellation Leo. According to the Slavic mythology of a later date, Simargl was chained to the constellation Ursa Major.

simargl-leo-zodiac-slavic-gods-pantheon
simargl-leo-zodiac-slavic-gods-pantheon

For more detailed analysis of the Slavic pantheon, please visit my other article: Slavic gods – the pantheon recounstructed.

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Hryvnia/Grivna – Slavic origins of the first European money

For the past couple of days, numerous news outlets have been reporting on a new scientific study that deals with the origins of money in Bronze age Europe. Two archaeologists from the Leiden University in the Netherlands investigated a possibility that neck rings, ribs, and ax blades – often found in hoards, were used as an early form of currency.

In short, the invention of bronze allowed for the objects to be cast from the same mold. The scientists compared the weights of more than 5,000 of these objects and found out that there are clear signs of standardization, especially when it comes to bronze rings. Roughly 70% of these rings were so close in mass, that the discrepancy would be hardly noticeable without a scale.

There is an ongoing debate whether the mass was relevant or they were simply counted, as we would do with modern coins. The ribs and axes were not as uniform in mass, but this study concludes that these objects clearly show “the earliest development of the commodity money in Central Europe.”

Distribution of the commodity money in Bronze age Europe

Rings and ribs were found in South-Central Europe: the Danubian region of Germany, Austria, Czech Republic. Ax blades appear in central and north-eastern Germany, roughly corresponding to the Únětice culture. In between is an area of overlap.

However, it is the bronze rings that make the backbone of this study, as they were the most standardized commodity. Their weight typically varies between 170-220 grams, but most of them fall within the range of 185-183 grams.

The study concludes that bronze rings were not only decorative ornaments but an early form of commodity money. They disappeared already at the beginning of the Iron age when they were exchanged for pieces of scrap metal of precise weight. This phase was followed by actual coins. However, the standardization of the bronze rings was the first and important step in this development.

Bronze rings as the commodity money of early Slavs

Reading this text, I could not help but wonder what was the connection between these bronze rings and the early Slavic tribes. This is something that went unnoticed by the authors of the study, so let me elaborate further in this article.

Ukrainian currency is called “Hryvnia“. This name comes from “Grivna” – the official currency of Kievan Rus and other Slavic states at least since the 11th century. The meaning of the “grivna” is “necklace, torque” or in other words “neck ring“.

Indeed, in Proto-Slavic “griva” meant “neck, mane”, therefore “grivna” would be an object worn around the neck. This word is archaic, and the proof for this claim lies in the fact that Sanskrit has a direct cognate. Sugriva (beautiful necked) is a famous hero from Ramayana, while grivasana is a neck pose in yoga.

This etymology is not being disputed by historians. However, they are still confused by the fact that the earliest currency of the Slavs somehow relates to the neck. Slavic Grivna from the middle ages was a piece of precious metal shaped like a rib or a rhomboid, not a neck ring. On Wikipedia we read the following:

“The word originally meant “a necklace” or “a torque”. The reason why it has taken the meaning of a unit of weight is unclear. The grivnas that have been found at various archaeological sites are not necklaces but bullions of precious metals, usually silver.

A hoard of rhombic Kievan grivnas at Moscow State Historical Museum

The weight of the Slavic Grivna

Just like in the case of the bronze rings, the weight of the Grivna was not uniform – it depended on the region. The Kievan grivna weighted around 140–165 grams, while the Novgorod grivna had 204 grams. The latter became the `basis for monetary systems of Northeastern Rus’ principalities as well as the Grand Duchy of Moscow.

Interestingly, this weight range of 140-204 grams is not that far from the weight range of the bronze age rings: 170-220 grams, with a peak of 185 grams.

So, the big question is: Was Slavic Grivna modeled on the European bronze age rings? Can we see some continuity here? The etymology of the word, as well as the weight surely point in this direction.

Conclusions

According to official history, Slavs arrived in Europe only around the 5-6th century AD. The early bronze age rings in question are 4-5,000 years old. Therefore, no contact between Slavs and these Bronze age tribes could have been possible, unless the official history is wrong.

As we have seen, there were two main groups in this part of Europe during the Bronze age. One group was identified by authors as the Únětice culture. They used the ax blades as their currency. The other one, which used the bronze rings, remained unidentified.

But interestingly, this other group dwelled around the Danube, in the region of the modern Slavic country of Czech Republic, East Germany, and Austria. This eastern part of Germany was Slavic since the recorded history of the 6th century. No historian would dispute that this region was gradually Germanized only later. The real question is who was there before the 6th century.

The same goes for Austria. Some of the most important cities still carry Germanized versions of the older, Slavic toponyms. For example, the name of Gratz comes from Slavic “Gradac” – hillfort, while the ancient name of Vienna was Vindibona – the white city, or in other words “Belgrade”.

In any case, the fact is that Slavic Grivna relate so perfectly to these Bronze age rings, in both, their name and their weight. And even though the current history of Europe might be tainted by various geopolitical ambitions, these unusual connections will still have to be explained by the official science, sooner or later.

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“Hòn Chồng” rock formations – Nha Trang, Vietnam – the megalithic observatory?

Nha Trang is a picturesque coastal city of central Vietnam. Previously known as Kauthara, it was founded by Champa, the ancient civilization that practiced Hinduism and thrived in this region for almost 1000 years. Po Nagar, a 7th century Champa temple, still dominates the local landscape. It was dedicated to Lady Po Nagar, the legendary queen of the Cham people. Modern scholars believe that her cult was inspired by the Hindu goddess Bhagavati / Durga.

The Hong Chong rock formations

Another popular attraction are the unusual rocks of Hong Chong. As it usually happens with such places, the strange rocky formations have inspired numerous local legends of their origins. Today they are considered as a national relic of special status.

The Giant’s fingers

One of the most poular rock reliefs is called “The Giant’s fingers”. According to the local legend, a giant woodcutter stumbled upon a group of fairies bathing in a stream. While spying on them he lost his footing. The broken rocks in the area mark the place where he fell, while the imprints of his fingers can still be seen on the rock.

The language of this myth is interesting. From my experience, the “Giant woodcutter” is usually a reference to the constellation of Orion, in Asia as well as in Christianity. Take for example the famous Vietnamese myth of Chú Cuội, another woodcutter who eventually ended up on the Moon, together with the holy Banyan tree (the Milky Way).

Intrigued by the possible astronomical connections, I used the compass on my phone to check for any possible alignments with cardinal directions. And sure enough, if you stand in front of this rock, and you are looking towards the horizon, you are facing the true east, without a degree of error. Moreover, the three islands could serve as perfect markers for the yearly movement of the Sun. The small one in the middle marks the equinoxes, while the two larger islands mark the solstices.

The giant’s fingers or Naga rock?

I was surprised to hear the story of the giant woodcutter. I saw a couple of photos of the rock before going there, and there was no doubt in my mind that these were men-made imprints, representing the Naga rock. Naga rocks are rock carvings of multiheaded snakes, very similar to this one. The Naga motifs were very popular in Champa art, just like they were in neighboring Cambodia and all other places in Asia that were influenced by Hinduism.

Here is an example from Sri Lanka. On this Srilankan rock, there is an image of an unnamed goddess on the left. Could it be a representation of Durga / Bhagavati?

Hydra constellation as a celestial marker

There are other articles on this blog that deal with the star lore about the Hydra constellation in more detail. Here it will suffice to say that Hydra was the longest constellation known to ancients. The seven-headed water snake first appears in the nights of March, the month of the spring equinox, accending from the heavenly water of the eastern horizon. At the autumn equinox, it descends back into the “water”, marking the arrival of the winter.

Therefore, the ancient stargazer would have had two options here. The first one would be to observe the Hydra rising from the ocean, right after the sunset, sheltered by the very image of the constellation behind his back. In this version, he would be Vishnu-like (and later like Buddha) whose resting pose is nothing but a representation of the horizontal position of Orion during the equinoxes. In other words, an image reminiscent of a fallen giant from the local myth.

Of course, the second option would be to observe the Sun rising behind the natural markers consisting of the three islands on the horizon. The position of these islands, paired with the unusual rocky landscape was probably the reason that the observational spot was chosen in the first place.

Conclusions

Is this theory too far-fetched? Perhaps. But the fact is that giant’s fingers were not shaped by mother nature, which begs the question of why were they carved in the first place. Moreover, some of the other rocks in the area show clear signs of human intervention. For example, this one, looking like some sort of megalithic altar.

Unfortunately, it would be difficult to completely reconstruct this site, as before it has been protected by the state, many of the rocks were moved from their original location and used as building blocks.

Very little is known about the ancient history of Vietnam, but what is certain is that there are ancient megaliths and dolmens scattered all around the country. Some of them are known to archaeologists, but there could be many more such rocks that are still under the radar. For example, I also saw this interesting rock formation at the Ba ho waterfalls, not far from Nha Trang, but couldn’t find any information regarding its history.

Were the ancient people in this region stargazers? Without any doubt. In that case, we can expect to see some traces of their activities, as important activities such as agriculture and hunt depended on the change of seasons. These stargazing narratives were then shaped in myths and the most important dates became religious festivals.

I believe that the rocky landscape of Hon Chong is more fitting for the ancient megalithic culture that would have to predate even the Champa. Only after the 4th century AD, these newcomers and skilled sailors who were practicing Hinduism could have brought the Naga imagery and adapted the already sacred site.

Indeed, the ancient sailing route once connected Vietnam with Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Kerala in India. Kerala was not only the birthplace of the Naga worship but also the main hub for the ancient trade routes for pepper and other spices. These routes existed already from the times of ancient Phoenicians and Egyptians who had also ventured to Kerala to trade.

Needless to say, it would not be only the spices that were exchanged along these routes. Perhaps here lies the reason why the ancient Egyptian version of Orion – Osiris sometimes looks so similar to Vishnu and Buddha.

The Sleeping Buddha, Long Son pagoda, Nha Trang

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From Labiatan to Leviathan – Illyrian history revisited

Illyrians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting the western Balkans since time immemorial. They first appear in the historical records of the 4th century BC, but there is no consensus on how long before that they were present in the Balkans. Some scholars consider Illyrians as an autochthonous population, the other as the Bronze age immigrants. It is also possible that the ancient Greeks had named them after the city of Troy (Ilion), which fell in the second millennium BC.

Greeks described Illyrians as tall and strong warriors and dreadful pirates. This reputation of the sea-raiders and pirates had existed since the first records. Illyrians invented fast ships – liburna and lembus and used them to raid cities and islands across the Adriatic and Mediterranean for centuries. In the end, it was the Romans who managed to subdue them.

Labiatae – the last of the Illyrians

At the time of the Roman conquest, one of the most important Illyrian tribes were the Labeatans. They occupied the territory around the lake Skadar, today northern Albania, and southern Montenegro. Ancient writers call this lake Labeatis.

Labeatans minted their coins. The coin of their capital city, Skodra (Skodrinon) depicts a typical lembus warship. It had no sails and it could take up to 50 men. Its shape resembles a sea serpent, while an actual sea serpent lies underneath it.

The demise of the Labateans was carefully recorded by the Roman historians. We know the names of the important figures of the last ruling dynasties, and we have records of the numerous battles. But their origins remain a mystery. Without a clear historical record, we can only guess who the Labeatans were. But decoding their name would surely be a good start.

Labiatae – people of the Labeatis lake

There is an obvious connection between the hydronym Labeatis and the Labiatae tribe. The question is only which came first. Many ancient tribes were named after some geographical feature, be it a river, mountain, or forest. But even the opposite can be true.

In any case, it seems that the “lab” was a common Illyrian particle, found in many place names. Wikipedia claims that it is a metathesis from “Alb” simply meaning “white”. They further claim that this could be the origin of the name of the Albanians.

But there is a small problem with that theory. Modern Albanian were probably named after another Illyrian tribe – Albanoi. (Although this could be a more recent version of the name Labeatae). The Albanoi territory was a bit outside of the traditional Labeatean domain but in its proximity. Their name could also from their capital, Albanopolis -“white city”. White city is a common Slavic toponym. It means the same as Serbian Belgrade, and it was also the ancient name of both Kyiv and Moscow, with many other examples across the Slavic world.

However, the metathesis “lab” – “alb” is still interesting, as we will soon see.

The story of the Lab river

Hydronyms often preserve the most ancient form of words, as changing the name of the river that flows through different cities (or even nations) is not as easy as changing the name of a city or a mountain. Numerous river names across the Indo-European area repeat, sometimes in the most unusual places. For example, scholars claim that Danube, Don, and Dnieper all share the same root. But this is just one of the many examples. The same is true for the root “Lab”.

Lab river, Kosovo, Serbia

Not far from the territory of the ancient Labeateans, there is a river Lab. It flows in the north-east of Kosovo. Kosovo was the central area of the first Serbian states, before the Ottoman invasion. As for the river’s name, Wikipedia claims the following:

Derived from a pre-Slavic form Alb that underwent linguistic metathesis within Slavic, giving the final form as Lab.

Therefore, the ancient form was ALB, but with the (supposed) Slavic arrival on the Balkans in the 6th century, it became LAB? Well, this could only be logical if we ignore the existence of the Labateans. But wait, why would LAB be a Slavic form?

Perhaps because a common Slavic word for swan is “labud” – white bird. It exists in all Slavic lands, therefore the Southern Slavs couldn’t have acquired it from some unknown indigenous population of the Balkans.

Elbe river, Central Europe

River Elbe is the major river in Central Europe. It flows through the Czech Republic and Germany, a region shared between the Slavic and Germanic nations. Scholars are still debating which of these nations came first. But what is certain is that the large part of modern Germany around the Elbe was once inhabited by the Slavic Sorbs (now a minority).

In the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy calls this river “Albis”. Wikipedia now claims:

First attested in Latin as Albis, the name “Elbe” means “river” or “river-bed” and is nothing more than the High German version of a word (*albī) found elsewhere in Germanic; cf. Old Norse river name Elfr, Swedish älv “river”, Norwegian elv “river”, Old English river name elf, and Middle Low German elve “river-bed”.

However, the authors completely ignore the fact that the Czechs, Poles, Sorbs and other Slavic nations call this river “Laba“. The map below illustrates the gradual loss of the Sorbian territories since the year 1000. Originally, the river Elbe was in the center of their territory.

Development of the language area of the Sorbs since 1000 AD, http://language-diversity.eu/

Laba river, Russia

River Laba is an important river of Krasnodar and Adygea regions of Russia. It flows around the Sea of Azov and the Black sea. Interestingly, this is the same region of Sarmatia Asiatica, in which Ptolemy places a “Sarmatian” tribe of Serboi (Serbi). Moreover, the name of Caucasian Albania is just another inversion of the root “Lab”.

Conclusion

In short, we can draw the following conclusion. There are three important rivers, separated by a great distance, sharing the same root. And interestingly, these regions are always occupied by nations that declare as Serbs. In all three cases, the original root “Lab” is changed to “alb” or “elb”, and not vice versa. Modern historians would say that these rivers and nations should not be confused. But this is hardly a coincidence.

RIVERNATION
LABSERBS
LABA (ELBE)SORBS
LABASERBOI, SERBI

Back to Labiatae

According to mainstream history, there was only one noteworthy movement of the Southern Slavs – from the north (Elbe) to south (Lab), in the 6th century AD. However, western historians also claim that Slavs arrived in the Elbe region around the same time, somewhere from the east. (not the Caucasus). That would simply mean that Slavs wandered aimlessly across the vast territory of Euro-Asia, which is a ridiculous theory. On the other hand, Slavic medieval texts were always explicit that Slavs occupied Balkans prior to the Roman invasion.

Anyhow, what is certain is that Labateans were present in the Balkans from the 4th century BC. But if we accept the connection between the terms “Illyrians” and “Ilion” (Troy), we can push this date back for another thousand years. This would bring us directly to the times of the bronze age migrations as well as the time when the notorious pirates known as sea peoples pillaged the Mediterranean region. This is a fact – Illyrians are the only candidates from the recorded history that could truly fit this shoe. Their Modus Operandi and notorious reputation were virtually identical to those of sea peoples.

Sea peoples reached the shores of northern Africa, slightly before the time when Jews started to compile their sacred scriptures. In this light, it is interesting that the Jews called the sea serpent Leviathan. The etymology of this name is not clear, but it appears in the earliest Jewish scriptures. It could be a coincidence, but this sea serpent looks very similar to the depictions of the Labiatan coins.

On their way there, one of the first stops would be the modern-day Lebanon. For its etymology Wikipedia states:

The name of Mount Lebanon originates from the Phoenician root lbn meaning “white”, apparently from its snow-capped peaks.

Lebane is also a town in South Serbia, bordering Kosovo.

Related articles:

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Magical swords in myths and legends part 2 – an astronomical perspective

In the first part of this article, we saw a common thread, shared by many “magical sword” legends around the world. One of the obvious explanations would be that these myths share the same root, at least to some extent. It is possible that these ideas come from the Iron age.

Indeed, there was a time when iron swords were a rare commodity. In Anatolia, Hittites were the first masters of iron, but these objects were reserved only for royalty. Homer claims that iron is more valuable than gold. This is easy to understand. The bronze age swords did not have a long life-span. They would bend and break easily. Therefore, the hard, iron still would represent an object of magical power – the stuff of legends.

But even if this explains why so many cultures share the same myth, it still doesn’t tell us anything of the myth’s original meaning. To understand this, we will have to use some basic astronomy.

The legend of King Arthur – an ancient astronomical allegory

The knights of the round table

Besides Excalibur, the “round table” is one of the most famous elements of the Arthurian saga. Originally, there were twelve knights, although in later versions this number could go as high as 150 (that would be a really large table). The “round table” meant that everyone is equal, as normally the most important person would sit at the head of the table. However, the number twelve and the idea of a circle could also be a clear reference to the twelve constellations of the zodiac. Further support for this theory comes from the Winchester Round Table.

This table dates to the early 13th century. In 1522 Henry VII depicted himself in the place of King Arthur. Besides this, there are twelve green and twelve white fields. They could represent a 24-hour day, or in other words, the twelve hours of daylight, and the twelve hours of the night – the passage of Sun and Moon through the twelve constellations of the zodiac.

King Arthur and the Bootes constellation

The etymology of the name Arthur is not clear. For example, Wikipedia lists several different opinions. Most of them relate to the variation of the root that meant “bear” (Celtic “arto”, Welsh “arth”). In the end, the article mentions an alternative theory according to which the name is a borrowing from Latin Arcturus. Arcturus is the brightest star of the Bootes constellation. As this constellation stands very near to Ursa Major, the “big bear” constellation, the ancients called it “guardian of the bear”. In another article, I spoke of this in more detail, but here is an illustration. Note that Bootes also holds a spear, one of the three weapons of Arthur.

bootes-ursar-ursa-major-astronomy-ancient-history
bootes-ursar-ursa-major-astronomy-ancient-history

But there is more. King Arthur’s father was Pendragon (chief dragon), and above the Bootes constellation, there is a constellation Draco – dragon. Underneath Bootes, we see the constellation Crater – a cup, or a grail. This is another important element of the Arthurian myth, but its origin is much older – we can trace it from Christianity, all the way back to some of the oldest Greek myths. I wrote extensively about it in some of the previous articles.

Lady of the lake and the white swan – Cygnus constellation

It was the Lady of the lake, who according to the legend granted Excalibur to Arthur. Unfortunately, medieval legends are full of contradictions when it comes to this character. One story claims that she was the daughter of Pendragon, and as such, Arthur’s sister. According to the other, she was the daughter of Dionas (Dyonas). This name sounds like the name of the Thracian god Dionysus, or in other words, constellation Orion – perhaps hinting to the possible source of the myth.

In artwork, Lady of the lake often has a white swan in proximity, just like the constellation Virgo has Cygnus, the swan. The reason that the ancients saw this star cluster as a swan is that it stands in the middle of the Milky Way, a celestial river that flows down towards the constellation of Scorpius (not too clear on the above image).

Lady of the lake – Virgo constellation

The contradictions are many even when it comes to her real name. Various sources spell it as Nimuë, Ninianne/Viviane, Nimanne, Niviene/ Vivienne, Nimiane/Niniame, Nymenche, Niniane, Niviana, Nymanne, Nynyane, Niniane, Ninieve, Nynyve/Nenyve

Interestingly, many of these variations sound similar to the names of the river Neman, an important river flowing from Belarus to Lithuania. The variants of its name include Nioman, Nyoman, Nemunas, Neman, Niemen… Another popular version, Nymenche, actually sounds like a Slavic diminutive, ending in “che”, often used as an endearment form of the name.

On the other hand, the forms Ninieve and Nynyve sound like the ancient Assyrian city Nineveh. I know that many readers will frown on this idea, and I could have easily taken it out of the article to make it easier to read and more “credible”. However, I find these connections very interesting, especially if we follow the idea that all of these myths share the same ancient root. Also, there is no other etymology for these names. The ancient city of Nineveh, whose origins go back to 3,000 BC, was dedicated to goddess Ishtar, its patron goddess. The cuneiform for the name of the city was Ninâ – a fish within a house, an obvious allusion to water.

And finally, some of the versions of the myth equate Lady of the lake with Morgan le Fay. The name Morgan comes from the Brittonic “Mori-gena” and means “sea-born”. She is an enchantress, but also the weaving goddess, just like Circe of the Odyssey. Her name is similar to the Christian Mary, which also comes from the word “sea”. Aphrodite, the Greek version of Ishtar also came out of the sea. These symbols are clear hints that we are dealing with the Virgo constellation, “house” of the planet Venus.

virgo-spinning-mokosh-slavic
virgo-spinning-mokosh-slavic

Carnwennan – the Pleiades

Arthur’s small dagger, Carnwennan, meant “little white hilt”. It is quite possible that it relates to the cluster of the Pleiades, which certain cultures saw as a little white dagger.

As the Pleiades are on the opposite side of the sky, this would also be in accordance with the Vietnamese myth where the main hero needs to assemble his sword out of two different pieces.

So where is the Excalibur?

By now, you may wonder why would this particular part of the sky be so important for the Arthurian myth. The answer is very simple. During the past two millennia BC, in other words during an Iron age, this was the night sky of the spring equinox. And the spring equinox was the most important event of the ancient calendar, marking the end of the winter and the cycle of New Year.

To be more precise, during the Iron age, the Sun rose on the background of Aries during the spring months. The constellation of Libra opened the night sky. In autumn, Sun was in Libra, on the other side of the zodiac. The scales of Libra symbolize the equinox when day and night are equal. Or perhaps, one of the scales is slightly tipped, to symbolize the change of pattern after the equinox.

But it is the spring equinox that is important for our story. Libra would appear on the eastern horizon just after sunset. From there, it would proceed to go up, followed by Scorpius, the next constellation in line. Both of the constellations would be visible around 9 PM, as you can see in the below image (a screenshot from Stellarium, a free astronomical software).

From here, these two constellations would proceed their travel across the night sky, until they reach the western horizon, just before the sunrise, around 5 AM.

Did you see it already? The constellation Scorpius looks like an arm. During sunset, it appears on the horizon right after the blue sky of the day. During sunrise, it looks as if it is going to dive towards it. In another article, I already compared the Scorpius constellation with the arm of Thor and found similar parallels even in Mayan mythology. It is only logical that those cultures that did not have scorpions in their habitat had different ideas of what this constellation represents. I believe that an arm is a good guess.

In this case, the Excalibur could be nothing else than the Libra constellation. Indeed, the modern idea of how the stars connect does not even look like the scales. But if we imagine different lines, those that made the ancients see the scales of Libra, the idea of a giant sword is not that far. (see the illustration of Libra above). In this case, we get the following parallel:

Do you see it? And during sunrise, these constellations will tilt on the western horizon. It will look as if a hand is throwing away the sword. Right after that, the sky will turn blue, just as the surface of water that swallowed the Excalibur.

Indeed, Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother in a cave. He manages to slay her just as the light of the day enters the cave. The sea then turns red, which could be another representation of the red sky during sunrise.

From Camael to Camelot

The court of King Arthur was in Camelot. There is no etymology for this toponym. However, in the Old Testament, an angel is holding the flaming sword, guarding the gates of heaven. His name is Camael. Camel holds a flaming sword in one hand, and in the other, he has a holy grail. Does the name Camelot relate to him?

In the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Rome, we see the following image. Enthroned Christ sits in the middle. On the left, there is an archangel Uriel (bright), holding a Sun-like shield – spring in Aries. On the right, we see Zophiel (from zophos, darkness) holding a Moon-like shield. Under him there is a Camael, holding the grail and staff instead of the usual flaming sword.

This image represents an astronomical allegory. And it is the Old Testament one – it made sense only for the two millennia BC. Eastern Orthodox tradition claims that after the resurrection of Jesus, the flaming sword was removed from the Garden of Eden, making it possible for humanity to re-enter Paradise. Christianity marks the shift of the equinox from Libra to Virgo. This is how Virgin Mary became an important character of the narrative, while the flaming sword was removed from heaven’s gate.

Conclusions

Interestingly, Arthurian myth stayed faithful to the older Pre-Christian narrative. As we saw, King Arthur lived during the 5th century AD, but in reality, the myth is probably even older than that. As some authors already noticed, it could have been brought to Brittain via Sarmatian mercenaries, which Romans brought on the island. Or perhaps its origins are even older and relate to some of the first settlers of the Iron age.

In any case, it seems that the Arthurian myth is an echo of a much older tradition.

Officially, the European Iron age started in the Aegean and Balkans, around the twelfth century BC. Scholars are undecided whether it came there from Anatolia or Caucasus. Iron was known in Assyrian Niniveh already around 3,000 BC. But if we add the similarities between the Asian myths and those of Europe, my two cents would go on the Caucasus. In this case, the Scythians and Sarmatians are truly the only people capable of spreading this influence.

However, it is possible that the iron age arrived in Balkans first, and from there reached the Aegean with the Dorian invasion. On the Serbian archaeological site of Hisar Hill, two needles were discovered, dated to the 14th century BC. The fascinating thing about these needles is their structure. They are made from 98,86% pure iron, which cannot rust. This is an impossible feat, even by modern standards. The only similar structure on earth is the famous Iron pillar of Delhi – another strange connection between Europe and Asia.

A needle and a pilar, symbolically marking the borders of the world’s first Iron age culture.

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Magical swords in myths and legends – from Britain to Vietnam

As the legend goes, sometime around the 5th century AD, King Arthur defended Britain from the Saxons. His legendary sword, Excalibur became a symbol of British sovereignty. However, it was only centuries later, that the legend became immortalized in several medieval manuscripts. Lacking the older sources, historians still argue whether King Arthur was a real, historical person or just a mythological hero.

Excalibur – the sword in the stone, or the sword in the lake?

To make things more complicated, medieval manuscripts often contradict each other. For example, the famous “sword in stone” motif dates to the 12-13th century. Immortalized in the modern media, this episode is probably the most common association with the Arthurian myth nowadays. But in reality, this element was foreign to most of the other sources of the legend. In the Middle Ages, the common agreement was that Arthur got his sword from the Lady of the lake.

In short, at the beginning of his reign, Arthur broke his sword. A nymph appeared from the lake, in the form of a young maiden, granting him Excalibur as a boon. Years later, fatally wounded Arthur asks one of his knights to throw the sword back to the enchanted lake.

Vietnamese legend of the sword in the lake

There are some striking parallels between the original Arthurian myth and some of the myths of South-East Asia. For example, one of the most popular Vietnamese legends is that of the sword Thuận Thiên (Heaven’s will).

Just like Excalibur, this sword is a symbol of Vietnamese sovereignty. It was proof of the legitimacy of the leader Lê Lợi, who fought against the Ming dynasty in the 15th century. But these are not the main similarities. In fact, the “Heaven’s will” sword also came from a lake. It was a fisherman who found its blade. Not knowing what to do with it, he threw it back in the lake, but the sword kept coming back in his net. When this happened for the third time, he took it as a sign and decided to take it home with him. The number three seems to be important here. In the Arthurian myth, the knights manage to throw Excalibur back in the lake only after three attempts.

Sometime later, general Lê Lợi visits the fisherman and the blade starts to shine in his presence. The fishermen allowed him to take the blade. But the blade was missing the hilt. Lê Lợi found it in the branches of a banyan tree. Putting the pieces together, he obtained a magical sword that granted many victories to the Vietnamese people.

Years later, Lê Lợi, now a king, took a boat ride on a lake in front of his palace. A golden turtle came out and asked for a sword in a human voice, claiming that it belongs to the dragon king, who wants it back. When the sword started to move on its own, Lê Lợi realized that it doesn’t belong to him. He was only allowed to have it to gain his victories. He then threw it back in the lake and the giant turtle took it underwater, never to be seen again.

For this reason, the name of the central lake in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, is Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Lake of the Returned Sword).

The parallels between these myths are obvious, and yet, I couldn’t find any other source connecting them. Both Excalibur and the “Heaven’s will” came out of a lake and were eventually returned there, once they served their purpose. Both swords were the symbols of sovereignty, legitimacy of a king, and a magical tool to overcome enemies. Also, the Vietnamese sword belonged to a dragon-king, while King Arthur’s father was Pendragon (chief-dragon).

The idea of the sword being assembled of two pieces – a blade and a hilt, is also very interesting. King Arthur had the sword Excalibur, and a dagger Carnwennan (little white hilt). He used it to slay the witch Orddu, by slicing her in half. Similarly, the Gaetish hero Beowulf has two swords, Hrunting and Naegling. He tried to slay Grendel’s mother (a witch or a dragon) with Hrunting, but it was too small. He then saw the giant sword Naegling, a sword of immense power, and used it to finish the job.

Malaysia – the sword of the river (and the dragon slayer)

In Malaysian royal regalia, there is a sword “Cura Si Manjakini“. The name is Sanskrit and means “blade of the Mandakini river”. Tradition states that it belonged to a first king, a hero who used it to slay Saktimuna – a multi-headed dragon.

Thailand – the legend of the sword in the lake

An important part of the royal regalia of Thailand is a “sword of victory“. Here too, it represents the power and legitimacy of a king. And once again, it was the fisherman who found it in his net. Its hilt is made of gold and decorated with diamonds and precious stones. Also, there is a carving of the god Vishnu riding an eagle Garuda.

But the main difference is that this magical sword was never returned to a lake. It still stands as a part of the royal regalia, and the people of Thailand can see it on special occasions. However, during the Oath of Allegiance ceremony, the king dips this sword in a cup of sacred water and drinks from it. The rest of the court then follows his example.

Slavic legends of the sword in the lake

At first glance, the cultures of South-east Asia and England may seem too far to have any significant influence on each other, especially in the remote past. However, it seems that similar legends once thrived all across the ancient world. In Slavic mythology, the name of the magical sword is Kladenets or Samosek (self-wielding sword). Often, this sword lies hidden behind an ancient wall, tree, or even grave, waiting to be discovered by a hero, as only the true hero can use it.

The etymology of the name Kladenets is not clear in the Russian language. But in the South-Slavic languages, kladenac (a diminutive of “klad”) means “well”. It refers to both men-made, and the natural well, where the water is deep. Interestingly, this word sounds quite similar to the original name of the Excalibur. The name “Excalibur” is a corruption of the Welsh “Caledfwlch”. Scholars still debate if there is a connection with the Irish magical sword, Caladbolg. The word Caladbolg could be a compound of Calad (as in “klad”) and Bolg, as in Fir Bolg. They were the mythical settlers of Ireland, sometimes connected to the continental Belgae.

Anyhow, Slavic legends are abundant in magical swords. They too, are often taken from water or returned to it. In 2011, Ukrainian archaeologists discovered a sword in the river Dnieper. Its handle was made out of four metals, including gold and silver. As this is the general area in which the 10th-century king Sviatoslav I of Kyiv lost his life fighting the Pechenegs, the sword is labeled as his. Knowing that the battle is lost, the king threw it in the river. The idea was that the enemy must not acquire an object that represents the royal power. The sword of Sviatoslav is now a part of a collection of an archaeological museum in Kyiv.

In one of the songs of Serbian medieval epics, the main hero, Prince Marko, feels that he is going to die. He goes to his faithful horse and cuts his head off so that the enemy (Turks) wouldn’t ride him. Marko then buries the horse with the utmost respect, or as the poem says “better than his brother”. After this, he breaks his sword and spear into pieces. And finally, he throws his main weapon, the mace, into the sea. He threw it saying: “When my mace comes out of the sea, only then can the same hero be”.

And finally, in 2019 archaeologists of the Republic of Srpska, Bosnian Federation discovered a medieval sword in the river Vrbas, dubbed “Bosnian Excalibur”. For hundreds of years, rocky sedimentation was formed around it. The archaeologists literally had to “take it out of the stone”.

Conclusions

These are just some of the examples of the magical swords in myths and legends. Surprisingly, all of them share common symbolism. When Beowulf slays Grendel’s mother, the sea turns red from her blood. We see the same idea in the myth of Perseus. When he slays the dragon, the sea also turns red, becoming the Red sea. Therefore, the myth of the Perseus could be older, as it explains the natural phenomena we still see today. Similarly, one of the episodes of the Slavic sword Kladenets, relates it to Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar. It is possible that all of these myths actually share the same origin, and that they were transmitted together with the advancement of metallurgy.

Indeed, the ancients saw the craft of the blacksmiths as something magical. And water is an important element in the process of smithing, as the metal needs to be cooled down constantly. Since the earliest days, the sword was a symbol of power, a living force, and in special cases even divine protection. It was one with his owner, containing some of his personal power. For this reason, many ancient cultures buried warriors with their swords. Often, they would ritually destroy them before the burial. One of the explanations for this practice was that they wanted to make sure that nobody else will be able to dig them out and use them. Another one states that in this way the power of the sword also left the earth, following its owner to the afterlife.

But there could be another reason for the popularity of this story. And as it is the case with most of the myths of the ancient world, this meaning is astronomical. Due to the limited space, this will be the topic of the second part of this article.

Part 2:

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Symbols of royal power, and their significance

In aboriginal cultures, the role of the shaman and the tribal leader is often one and the same. Rishi (seer, sage, saint) was the name for the wise men of the Aryan culture of Vedic India and Iran. Scholars will disagree, but this could also be the meaning of the Celtic “rix/rixs” – (king, a tribal leader). Rix is, of course, a cognate with Latin “rex” (king, ruler). But since the Latin word does not have any other meaning than that, I believe that the original source was probably Sanskrit.

In any case, from the earliest of times to pharaohs and medieval kings, there was always the same connotation that a king is a holy person. Rulers were descendants of gods or demi-gods in the worst case. To reinforce this impression, rulers developed a language of symbols, in the form of common royal regalia that represents their power and wisdom. With slight variations, these symbols are almost identical and very often, astronomical in their essence.

Scepter, the royal staff

One of the oldest symbols of royal power is the scepter. It existed in virtually all ancient cultures, from Mesopotamia and Egypt to Greece and India, from Christianity to European Monarchs. Regardless of the variations in the general shape and size, the meaning is always the same.

The scepter is an upgraded version of the shepherd’s staff. It symbolizes the power to lead and protect the flock, but also to judge and punish it. In an astronomical sense, staff represents the Axis Mundi – an invisible pole around which the whole universe rotates.

Sword as the symbol of power

As we entered the ages of metal, the staff was not enough of a statement anymore. The sword became the new power symbol of the royal regalia. The role of the king also gravitated towards the warlord in this period.

When swords first appeared, they represented something truly mystical, holding great strength and power. The blacksmiths who made them were seen as magicians, and the skill with which they subdued the elements inspired numerous myths and superstitions. No wonder then, that all ancient cultures have stories of magical swords. What is strange, is how most of these myths tell similar stories. But this will be a topic of another article.

For now, let us say that the and upside down sword looks like a cross. In other words, just like the staff – it can both lead and punish.

The royal crown and the zodiac

Crown developed from the diadem. The oldest example of diadem comes from the Indus Valley Civilization, in 3,000 BC. The earliest crowns were probably made of flowers and leaves. We can conclude that from the earliest golden models, which were simply following the age-old tradition. With time, the golden crowns became more elaborate, including various animals, crosses, and other symbols. On top of that, precious jewels were added.

However, the original symbolism never changed. Crown represents the starry sky and the zodiac. The one wearing it is in the center of it. In other words, his mind understands the cosmic laws and brings them to Earth. His rule is divine.

The ring as the symbol of power

Similar to the crown, the ring was another important part of the royal insignia. Its place is on the finger which in palmistry belongs to the Sun, so we can say that the ring is just a miniature crown. The symbolism is the same. The practice of “kissing the ring” existed at least since the Middle Ages. It is adopted both by Papacy and the Italian Mafia, according to Mario Puzo. Kissing the ring, meant recognizing the supreme rule of its wearer.

Mantle as the symbol of power

Mantle, or the royal garment, has a very long history. Nowadays, the first association is that of the European kings and queens. But even the priestly mantle is just a more modest version of the same. In antiquity, the mantle represented the skies, as they were seen as a cover, a cape. It was a very popular motif in Greek representations of gods, where it served as a substitute for the wings of the angels. From the same symbolism comes the cape. Its function in the marriage is to add the holy, celestial element. For this reason, even the modern superheroes have it, especially those that can fly.

The earliest form of the mantle was probably an elaborate piece of garment, similar to an Indian sari. The roots of the sari, just like the crown, go back to the Indus Valley civilization. Another Asian royal symbol with the same meaning is the umbrella.

Throne as the symbol of power

Every ruler has to have a throne. The first thrones were megalithic and they were cut directly out of the bedrock. They were aligned towards cardinal directions so that the seer could observe the movement of the stars from them. In the later period, these priest-kings moved into palaces. The thrones became more elaborate, engraved with various symbols of power. But they were still carved out of huge rocks – a memory of their earliest meaning and purpose.

The word “throne” comes from the Greek “thrónos” – meaning “chair, throne”. Its root is the PIE “*dʰer- (“to hold”). This same root is in the Vedic “Dharma“, meaning “post, sacrificial pole, support of heavens”. But the other meaning of Dharma is “divine justice, the cosmic law”.

In other words, the throne was a symbol of the connection between the earth and the sky. And the one sitting on it was the supporter of divine justice, just like Vedic Vishnu, or Christ Pantocrator.

Globus cruciger as the symbol of power

Globus cruciger (cross-bearing orb) is another ancient symbol of power. Cross is a later addition, under the Christian influence. In ancient Greece, Zeus had an orb under its foot, symbolizing his rule over the Earth. Christianity adopted the symbol, adding the cross to mark the dominion of Christ. But even the Atlas, carrying the globe on his shoulder conveys the same symbolism. The idea is clearly ancient, as many Asian cultures also use the orb in their religious imagery.

Its meaning is obvious, and not very different from that of the throne. In other words, just like the crown and the ring, the throne and the orb are substitutes.

Shoes as the symbol of power

Shoes are not an important part of the western royal insignia, but they are in the east. In Ramayana, Rama goes to exile, and of all royal regalia, Bharata chooses his slippers. This could have been Bharata’s way of implying to Rama that he will lead the kingdom in the same manner, so he has nothing to worry about. In other words, he will literally step in his shoes. Whether for this reason or not, but the shoes are an important part of royal regalia in many Asian countries, Thailand for example.

More on the astronomical meaning of the royal regalia

By now, most of the associations with astronomy should be obvious. But perhaps there is even more than meets the eye. The crown can be the symbol of the zodiac, but also the planet Saturn, whose ring was not unknown to ancient cultures. The path of Saturn through the zodiac depicts the furthest boundaries of our solar system. The sword is, of course, a symbol of the war-god Mars. And the staff was a common attribute of Hermes/Mercury and its other equivalents. As we saw, both the throne and the orb are attributes of Zeus/Jupiter. And the cape, or a mantle, the only “female” attribute, would represent Venus.

Even the lunar nodes, an important element of ancient astronomy, could be represented by a pair of dragons, snakes, or other dual animals that usually adorn the thrones. The seated person, therefore, represents the union of the Moon (mind) Sun (soul), and the Earth (body). In this way, he is the true ruler of earth and sky, a manifestation of the cosmic order.

Conclusions

The royal (and priestly) regalia goes back to the dawn of human civilization. Its symbolism speaks volumes about the first leaders of our race. They were seers, astronomers, and masters of time and destiny. Like cape-wearing superman, they were more than human – enlightened beings. But as it usually happens, this golden age had to end. The greed and corruption took over the wheel, and only the symbolism remained.

Astrology was pushed aside centuries ago, to give way to modern science. But the leaders of western civilization did not move away from it. True, they do not wear mantles anymore (except the Pope) but they still use the same symbols, although more concealed. Fake nimbuses of saints that we often see behind the faces of politicians on our TV screens, made with the clever use of photography, are a good example. But astronomical symbolism goes much deeper. It exists even in the logos, sculptures, and architecture of the world’s most important organizations. In short, these archetypes still affect our subconscious mind, just as they affected the minds of our ancestors thousands of years ago. The only question is, does our elite care to truly understand what these symbols represent, or do they only care about holding the world in their hand.

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