Monday, April 27, 2015

An Ancient Star

Published in Working Tools Masonic Magazine, October 2012

For our ancestors, knowledge of the heavens was a decisive factor in survival, and for millennia they recorded astronomical patterns. Ca. 12,500 BC, lunar calendrics, and stellar and solar 24 hour clocking are evident in inscribed notations which evolved with mankind. Sometimes engravings or paintings were made to record these patterns. One particularly stunning example is the hexagram, now also called Solomon’ s Seal, Magen David, or Star of David.  The hexagram is one of the oldest and most universal symbols.

Hexagons are six-sided shapes. Evident on the crust of the earth, in the formation of rocks, dried corn, and snowflakes, they are formed by pressure from without. This is the basis of the “hex”: subjects of the “hex” find themselves surrounded by pressure. Hexagrams of overlapping triangles were used in the days of Solomon to contain evil spirits, trapped by the surrounding pressure.

A hexagram is a six pointed star composed of two overlapped triangles. The beginnings of the hexagram are seen as far back as 77,000 years, with an upward pointing triangle symbolizing winter solstice sunrise and sunset. (see below)  By 14,500 BC, summer and winter solstice sunrise and sunset are represented with overlapping triangles.
Duncan-Enzmann photo of solstice symbol                              Altamira Cave, 16,500 BC

The Magen David is commonly associated with Judaism today, but it is actually a relatively new symbol of the Jewish faith. Although it appears occasionally in their early artwork, it has never been exclusively Jewish. The evolution of this familiar symbol can be observed with the following series (Duncan-Enzmann): 

Blombos- 77,000 BC; Denekamp-31,000 BC; Solutrean-20,000 BC; (2) Altamira-16,500 BC; Current
With the simple diagram below, it is easy to depict the movement of the sun from winter solstice, through the spring equinox, to summer solstice, and back to autumnal equinox. Even small children are able to understand and remember; our ancestors taught the very young how to tell time and season astronomically:
Winter solstice, Spring equinox, Summer solstice, Autumn equinox, Winter solstice
According to Christopher Knight in “Solomon’s Power Brokers ” the hexagram known as the Star of David has roots not only in ancient astronomical observation, but observations done at a particular place. The diagram below shows the hexagram created by the sun’s shadows at winter and summer solstices, as it appears at the latitude of Jerusalem.  

After an illustration in: “Solomon’s Power Brokers: The Secrets of Freemasonry, The Church, and the Illuminati.” Christopher Knight and Alan Butler. 2007. New York: Watkins

As with most symbols the hexagram gained layers of meaning as it flowed through time and cultures, coming to symbolize the union of opposites:  male and female, fire and water, error and truth, active and passive, darkness and light, ignorance and wisdom. These interpretations are not unreasonable considering the astronomical origin of the symbol – from observations based on light and shadow. 

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales and tracing them to their roots. She is an author, columnist, publisher, artist, and teacher. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbolism and folklore, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:

    Symbology series:

Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols  
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids

Fairy Tales: 

A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn
A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid
The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons First Book

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