Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online

THE RUINS, OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES

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THE ZODIACAL SIGNS AND CONSTELLATIONS.

(Compiled by the publisher from recognized authorities.)


The Zodiac is an imaginary girdle or belt in the celestial sphere, which extends about eight degrees on each side of the Ecliptic. It is divided into twelve portions, called the signs of the Zodiac, within which all the planets make their revolutions. The Zodiac is so called from the animals represented upon it, and is supposed to have originated in remote ages and in latitudes where the camel and elephant were comparatively unknown. This pictorial representation of the zodiac was probably the origin, as M. Dupuis suggests, of the Arabian and Egyptian adoration of animals and birds, and has led in the natural progress of events to the adoration of images by both Christians and pagans.

"The Signs of the Zodiac, (says Godfrey Higgins in The Anacalypsis) with the exception of the Scorpion, which was exchanged by Dan for the Eagle, were carried by the different tribes of the Israelites on their standards; and Taurus, Leo, Aquarius, and Scorpio or the Eagle--the four signs of Reuben, Judah, Ephriam, and Dan--were placed at the four corners, (the four cardinal points), of their encampment, evidently in allusion to the cardinal points of the sphere, the equinoxes and solstices, when the equinox was in Taurus. (See Parkhurst's Lexicon.) These coincidences prove that this religious system had its origin before the bull ceased to be an equinoctial sign, and prove also, that the religion of Moses was originally the same in its secret mysteries as that of the Heathen, or, if my reader likes it better, that the Heathen secret mysteries were the same as those of Moses."

The Ecliptic, a great circle of the sphere, (shown on the preceding map by two parallel lines), is supposed to be drawn through the middle of the Zodiac, cutting the Equator at two points, (called the Equinoctial points), at an angle with the equinoctial of 23 degrees 28 minutes, (the sun's greatest declination), and is the path which the earth is supposed to describe amidst the fixed stars in performing its annual circuit around the sun. It is called the Ecliptic because the eclipses of the sun and moon always occur under it.

The Signs are each the twelfth part of the Ecliptic or Zodiac, (30 degrees,) and are reckoned from the point of intersection of the ecliptic and equator at the vernal equinox. They are named respectively Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces. These names are borrowed from the constellations of the zodiac of the same denomination, which corresponded when these divisions were originally made; but in consequence of the precession, recession, or retrocession of the equinoxes, (about 50 1/10" yearly, at the rate of about 72 years to a degree, displacing an entire sign in about 2152 years, and making an entire revolution of the equinoctial in about 25,868 years), the positions of these constellations in the heavens no longer correspond with the divisions of the ecliptic of the same name, but are in advance of them. Thus, the constellation Aries is now in that part of the ecliptic called Taurus, and the stars of Taurus are in Gemini, those of Gemini in Cancer, and so on throughout the ecliptic.

The relative positions of the signs and constellations in the zodiac and ecliptic seem thus to have gradually changed with the revolving years; and the worship of the three constellations, Taurus, Aries, and Pisces, with which Christianity is so intimately connected, seems to have changed in a corresponding degree. The worship of the bull of Egypt--the celestial Taurus--has given place to that of the lamb of Palestine--the celestial Aries; and under the astronomical emblem Pisces--the twelfth sign of the zodiac--the dominant faith of to-day was appropriately taught by the twelve apostolic fishermen.

It is from one of these chosen fishermen, St. Peter, that the Pope of Rome claims to have derived his arbitrary power for binding and loosing on earth those who are to be bound and loosed in heaven. (Matt. xvi, 19.) The grave responsibility of wielding with justice and equity this tremendous power over the future destiny of mankind, seems never to have disconcerted any of the successors of St. Peter. They have all proved to be equally arrogant and intolerant, zealous for both temporal and spiritual domination, and merciless to those who have opposed their pretensions. The present incumbent of the papal chair, who modestly claims the attribute of infallibility, seems proud of his inherited title, The Great Fisherman! and hopes in the progress of time, with the assistance of his monks, bishops, and cardinals, to entangle all nations in his net of faith, and to dictate with unquestioned authority the religious worship of the entire human race.

As the precession of the equinoxes still continues as of yore, and as the masses still continue credulous and devout, they may in succeeding ages be again called upon to worship the god Apis, when the sign of Taurus shall again coincide in the zodiac and the ecliptic; and Aries, "the lamb of God," may again be offered in the "fullness of time" as a sacrifice for mankind, again be crucified, and again shed his redeeming blood to wash away the sins of a believing world.

  1. Dupuis has satisfactorily shown in The History of all Religions that the twelve labors of the god and saviour Hercules were astronomical allegories--the history of the passage of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac--and these labors are so similar to the sufferings of Jesus, that the Rev. Mr. Parkhurst has been obliged, much against his inclination, to acknowledge that they "were types of what the real Saviour was to do and suffer." (Parkhurst, p.47.) An intimate connection, if not identity, is thus shown between ancient and modern belief--between the paganism of the past and the orthodoxy of the present.




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