Autumn Equinox Observances from the Ancient Past

The ancient Egyptians, Phonecians and Persians celebrated the New Year with the autumn equinox, when the hours of daylight and darkness reached an equilibrium. On this date, the first day of autumn, the location of the Sun reaches one of the four corners of the zodiac cross.

Autumn Equinox

The ancient sky-watchers used the stars above to form the constellation of the cardinal zodiac sign Libra–the Balance–to signify the time when daylight and darkness were balanced. This astronomical event held great importance to ancient agrarian societies, because it marked the location when the Sun and ecliptic traversed over the equator–an important event for timing the harvest.

Why Did Ancient People Celebrate the Autumn Equinox?

The importance of such a seasonal time marker as the autumn equinox was heightened in ancient agrarian society due to the nature of activities at this time of year. At this time, the harvest was in full bloom and the bountiful return after long summer hours of laboring under the heat of the sun revealed the promise of ripened, life-sustaining crops. To many people of ancient agrarian civilization, the harvest season was a time to count your blessings in the form of fruits that grow from the earth.

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What Types of Traditions Are Observed on the Autumn Equinox?

In China, the autumn equinox is described as a day of balance between yin (darkness) and yang (light). Yet the autumn season in turn welcomes the winter, as yin takes hold and the light of the Sun disappears with each passing day. For this reason, the autumn equinox enters with an air of serious reflection and marks a time of preparation before the challenge of winter ahead.

It is thought that at this time, the festival sacrifice to the Moon or Harvest Moon took place in contrast to the sacrifice to the Sun, which was held on the spring equinox. The Taoist philosophers used the element metal to characterize the season of fall with solemnity and courage for the trials ahead.

Reap What You've SownHow Did the Harvest Determine the Nature of the Observance?

The autumn season of falling leaves offered a period of relaxation for ancient agrarian people, just before the chill of winter set in. It was a fortunate time if the crop yield was abundant, but also sobering if the harvest was bad. For this meant the abundance of living things would soon return to the earth, and food would be scarce if they weren’t already prepared. The darkness would soon creep across the land with the turn of each day. If there was abundance now, it was time to celebrate–for soon, the cold would force them to ration all resources for the coming winter.

–Thus, the harvest and autumn equinox is a time of reaping what you’ve sown.

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8 Hidden Facts About Stonehenge Revealed

New discoveries have recently been made at the sight of the prehistoric monument Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Over the last five years, archeological research teams at Birmingham University have unearthed an ancient landscape beneath the Stonehenge complex.

Stonehenge

With the use of high-tech radar equipment, researchers were able to survey 12 square kilometers of the surrounding area with such great precision, they have begun to map a blueprint of the timeline between constructed structures and monuments before and after the completion of Stonehenge.

–Last Thursday the first episode of Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath aired on on BBC. If you didn’t get the chance to see the first episode, I’ve summarized it for you below:

1. First there were Three Pillars

Before the construction of Stonehenge there were three “totem-like” poles or pillars unconnected to the later site. During the Mesolithic Period, those people who inhabited the area built the success of society and civilization from hunter-gatherer strategies. Because of this, it is speculated that the first three pillars were constructed, when people migrated to the area around 10,000 years ago. Back then, the land was prime hunting territory with bovine aurochs (huge wild cattle), and an abundance of flint also ensured the warmth of a fire.

Doggerland2. Then–Britain became an Island

About 8,200 years ago, the land that connected the Isle of Britain from the mainland continental Europe began to flood. The totality of what was Doggerland fell back into the sea by about 6,000 BCE, and the inhabitants of the Stonehenge area became isolated and stopped producing monuments for a few centuries to follow. Thus, a period of standstill began after the flood and around the construction of Robin Hood’s Ball (a causeway enclosure).

3. Robin Hood’s Ball Marks the Birth of the Neolithic

As people began to retire from hunter-gatherer survival techniques and settle the area surrounding Stonehenge, the continuous construction of causewayed enclosures similar to Robin Hood’s Bowl can be seen repeated across the isle. Circular ditches and gaps or the causeways distinguish this feature, and its existence suggests the separation of land as territory or rising local tension between groups in the area.

4. A Community Grave for Early Rituals Stood Before Stonehenge

An intricate ‘Long Barrow’ grave design as seen throughout continental Europe shows the rising Neolithic influences into the area. The Long Barrow grave can be found 2 kilometers east of Stonehenge and stands a far more advanced structure than all previous known architecture at the site. This particular community burial tomb was the place of ritual ceremonies and rites of the dead. These mass graves were speculated to house up to 50 people before being sealed.

5. The Greater Cursus Topped All Previous Architecture

A long oval-shaped causeway structure built similar to Robin Hood’s Ball spans across 2.5 kilometers near the site of Stonehenge.

Greater Cursus Stonehenge

Such an extensive enclosure of ditches and causeways was not made possible without the use of Neolithic Era technology and tools such as flint axes. This particular Cursus is suggested to have been connected with an early processional route. At either end of the Greater Cursus, two pits were found. These pits mark the location of a solar alignment and demonstrate the rising importance of the calendar to the Neolithic farmer.

6. The Local People Mined Flint on an Industrial Scale

Flint mines can be found nearby the surrounding area of Stonehenge with Neolithic industrial projects such as Grimes Graves. It is suggested the flint coloured with rare pink algae (Hildenbrandia rivularis) near Stonehenge became a mythical icon of the land, and if held under the warm water springs in the area, a normal flint would be turned bright pink. After Neolithic technologies reached the island, flint mines appeared in the form of circular ditches carved 12.5 meters into the ground and connecting in patterns beneath the earth.

Grime's Graves

7. The Pits of the Cursus Align with the Summer Solstice

 Two pits were discovered at either side of the Greater Cursus to mark the presence of a solar alignment on Midsummer’s Day or the date of the summer solstice. At sunrise on the summer solstice, the sun ascending above the eastern horizon aligned with the eastern pit, and at sunset, the sun descending below the western horizon aligned with the western pit of the Cursus along with the exact location where Stonehenge would be completed centuries later. With the rise of agrarian society in the Neolithic Era, time-tracking and seasonal marking monuments became more common. The grand size of the Greater Cursus suggests a ceremony that lasted an entire day.

8. Successful Surgeries were Accomplished by Neolithic Physicians

After excavating the area surrounding Stonehenge, skulls were unearthed that display what researchers speculate to be an early form of surgery. Despite the lack of modern medical knowledge, skulls showing signs of weapon injury were uncovered to demonstrate how early physicians were still able to heal their patients in a process known as ‘trepanning’. Signs of healing around the operated area confirm that some people were able to not only survive the battle but live to tell the tale.

–The next episode of Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath is set to air on Thursday September 18th at 8:00 pm. Stop by the Oracle’s Library for an overview of episode two next week.

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Fact or Fiction: Is the Force From Star Wars Real?

Star Wars "the Force"Is “the Force” from Star Wars Real or Science Fiction?

Let’s take a closer look at what George Lucas had in mind when he created “the Force”–the latent, all-encompassing metaphysical power of the universe in the Star Wars series.

You might notice it sounds a lot like the “quintessence” of the early classical philosophies, but in fact, “the Force” is more a play on the Eastern esoteric wisdom and the concept of Tao. George Lucas built the political dynamics, jedi philosophies and conflicts in the Star Wars world with influences from the time following Japan’s Sengoku Jidai or Warring States Period and action sequences in the style of Japanese Samurai Films or Jidaigeki.

The Force

You may now see how “Jedi” seems a play off the name of this film genre. This links us back to the origins of “the Force” in Eastern philosophies.

What exactly is “the Force” from Star Wars?

 –If you asked a Japanese samurai the name of “the Force” of latent and underlying power of the universe he may have answered “qi” or perhaps “kami”.

But still, he may remark that the greater universe is governed by the polar force of “taiji” (the Great Polarity) and qi is our extension of this force. Then the visual Tao symbol depicting taiji shows us the eight trigrams and two infinite forces in eternal balance–the Light and Dark Side of the Force. In Star Wars these two sides embody forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, although these concepts were originally defined as yang and yin.

Use the Force!

Does the Human Body Produce Electricity or Magnetism?

Yes! In fact it does. But you won’t find yourself shooting lightning bolts from your fingertips or salvaging your T-65 X-wing from the pits of Dagobah swamps. Instead, the bioelectromagnetism in all living organisms is essential to some biological functions. More about bioelectromagnetics can be found at the Bioelectromagnetic Society.

 

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Solar Storm Update: Look Out for the Northern Lights!

How Do Solar Storms Affect the Earth?

During periods of high solar activity and frequent sunspots, the Sun ejects solar flares and releases solar winds that reach Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere. As these excited particles react and ionize with particles in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, they paint the sky with the most spectacular show–The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis–which can be seen in the highest latitudes North of the Equator.

Aurora Borealis

On Wednesday, the Sun’s photosphere rumbled up a solar storm with the ejection of a solar flare that reached us across 1 AU. Solar flares also have the potential to interrupt radio communications at great heights above the Earth.

How Should You Prepare for a Solar Storm?

If you live in the North, go outside tonight! You might see the remnants of a massive solar ejection in the colorful ambient lights that illuminate the sky with the Northern Lights. The current solar storm conjured up a Coronal Mass Ejection and sightings of the Aurora Borealis may be seen across high northern regions, and sometimes as low as Canada and parts of the US like Washington, Oregon, Maine and other Great Lakes, New England, and Pacific Northwestern states–like those seen last night (Friday).

Most of the solar storm is behind us, as the bulk of the solar flares and winds were seen Friday night. But still, tonight is prime time to keep your eyes on the sky. You might just spot the Northern Lights!

–Check out Wednesday’s solar flare:

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Time Travel Episodes: Drive Faster, Live Longer

DriveFasterLiveLongerDoes Driving Faster Make You Younger?

Yes and No. I guess it all depends on who you ask. Say you mastered the art of Time Travel–congratulations you genius!

You’ve successfully constructed the flux time capacitor! You’re now on your way to fix it inside the DeLorean and set the clocks for the future. Now’s a perfect time to disappear into the void of space-time–especially since you recently ripped off those viles of plutonium–you rebel! After you set the clock face to more promising digits, you hit the pedal, and go.

Time Travel

Not only do you look cool as you accelerate (and slowly slip on your sunglasses), but you find yourself speeding beyond so fast that you begin to near the speed of light.

–Doc says 88 mph and 1.21 gigawatts is all it takes, Great Scott!

This leads us back to our original question:

Does Driving Faster Make You Younger?

Does the act of accelerating at speeds near the speed of light actually make you younger? If you asked the people who you left behind, they would certainly notice you hadn’t aged–when you made one last stop to pay them a visit just before continuing on again into the void of space-time to speed past even more decades into the future.

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No, you aren’t really getting younger at all–unless you consider getting older a condition that is reversed by appearing the same age–and let’s face it, all the plastic surgery and botox injections only slowed the overall effect at best. As Einstein may have chimed in at this point:

–Welcome to the general theory of relativity.

But still, you wouldn’t be younger, rather slightly older than the same age as you were when you started. Or–the passage of time would appear much slower to you in relation to them–yet the same as it does now, in fact! And, you wouldn’t even notice it sped by so quickly for everyone else–unless there was a way to view this from out the window. Thus, there is a ratio between the duration of time and unfolding of space as a material thing. And our ability to accelerate affects the interaction between the two.

So, is there a limit? If you surpassed the limit of the speed of light, would the cause of your effects reverse?

If so, you’d be a regular Benjamin Button.

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The Origins of Midsummer’s Eve and the Summer Solstice

The Oracle’s Library reveals the tradition behind the summer solstice observance. The summer solstice also known as Midsummer’s Eve is an ancient tradition that dates back to the Neolithic Era.

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Many observances of the summer solstice holiday include traditions involving bonfires, flower wreaths and fertility rites for young women depending upon where you are in the world. For anyone living in the Northern Hemisphere, this date marks the longest day of the year, when the Sun hovers just above the Tropic of Cancer to welcome the summer season. At this time, Cancer the Crab rises in the east at sunrise, and the sun finds itself at a cozy position nearest those who live in north.

Why Celebrate the Summer Solstice?

The summer solstice was once a date reserved for ritual observance and festivities practiced by many of the people throughout Europe—especially in the northern-most latitudes. That is because the summer solstice acted as an excellent astronomical marker to track time and keep in touch with the seasons, when accurate calendars were not yet invented. Summer solstice celebrations now take place between June 21st and June 25th to echo the festivities once held in the distant past. Some know the summer solstice as St. John’s Day derived from the nativity of John the Baptist. Early pagan tradition would call it Lith or the Fire Festival.

Stonehenge and Midsummer’s Eve

One of the most mysterious architectural sites of the Neolithic world is Stonehenge—the location of a summer solstice alignment. Stonehenge was once a happening place on the solstices, and it is speculated many would flock to this particular spot for a ritual of some sort. The avenue that leads from the river to the wooden circle aligns with the setting sun on the Summer Solstice. It is thought that the avenue was a link between both the stone circle and the wooden circle and acted as a procession route on the solstices between the land of the living and the dead.

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The Heel Stone—also known as “Friar’s Heel” or “Sun-stone”—located north-east of the sarsen circle also tracks the sun’s position on the solstice. If a person stands within the stone circle on the summer solstice, the Heel Stone appears to hold the place of the sun as it ascends over the horizon at sunrise. It is thought that perhaps the word “Friar’s Heel” was actually once “Freyja’s He-ol”—the Germanic goddess Freyja and the Welsh word for “track”. The Summer Solstice is a fantastic time to visit Stonehenge, since the equinoxes and solstices are some of the only dates the site is open to ‘roaming’ visitors throughout the year. Keep in mind, the observance will be in full effect at sunset on Midsummer’s Eve. For more into the solstices, check out Winter Solstice Celebrations.

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Ophiuchus and Orion: The Lost Zodiac Signs

I'm On Astrology By Answers.comThe Oracle’s Library sheds light on the hidden star signs that lie along the zodiac belt. What is the 13th sign, and why does it hold such an important position in the zodiac?

Every year the Sun transits through the constellation Ophiuchus, and each phase the Moon graces the top of Orion. If these two constellations are located along the zodiac belt, why are they not considered part of the traditional zodiac? Although Ophiuchus remains virtually unknown to astrologers of the Tropical Zodiac, the thirteenth sign holds a special place in the night sky. That is, “the serpent bearer” is the location of the Galactic Center of our Milky Way Galaxy.

To learn about the 13th sign and its complimentary opposite, check out my latest article on astrology.answers.com, Ophiuchus and Orion: The Lost Zodiac Signs.

 asclepios

Since these two signs occupy locations along the zodiac belt, Ophiuchus is considered a Sun sign and Orion, a Moon sign.

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What’s the Story behind April Fool’s Day?

Torigin_3536187338he Oracle’s Library explores the origins behind April Fool’s Day. Back before the Gregorian Calendar was established, people in the middle ages celebrated the New Year following the return of the vernal equinox around the 21st of March. From as early as the 4th Century BCE up to the medieval era, societies across Europe reserved March 25th for the New Year’s celebration named the Feast of Annunciation.

The Annunciation and Equinox

The Feast of Annunciation—also known as Lady Day—was one of the only two celebrations permitted by the Roman Catholic Church to be held during Lent just before Easter. In some places in England, no work was to be done in observance of this holiday. The feast celebrates the day the angel Gabriel visited Mary to mark the day of Incarnation of the Second Person into the Holy Trinity. The angel said, “Ave, gratia pena, Dominus tecum” or “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”(Luke 1:28). This salutation has been shaped into the words of the common “Hail Mary” prayer with her response, “fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” or “Let it be done to me according to thy word”.

The New Year of the Gregorian Calendar

In 1582, when the Gregorian Calendar replaced the old Julian Calendar of Caesar under Pope Gregory XIII, the earliest New Year’s celebrations held on Lady Day were also shifted to the new calendar start date on January 1st. The implementation of the Gregorian Calendar also immediately changed the date by 10 whole days from October 5th to October 15th to make up for the discrepancies between the calendar seasons and the vernal equinox. This discrepancy is a natural phenomenon caused by the precession of the equinox (precession occurs at a rate of about 1 degree every 70 years).

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In one day, the New Year’s celebration was hacked and switched to January 1st in the Roman Catholic world. The Eastern Orthodox tradition did what many of the people living across Europe did in response—nothing. They continued to hold a feast just after the vernal equinox on March 21st to celebrate the Annunciation and the return of the New Year. Hence, March 21st became the day of fools, when those who were uniformed by the Pope were still celebrating Lady Day. After the Julian Calendar was replaced, March 21st became April 1st and Voilà! We have April Fool’s Day.

Quarters of the Seasons and Lady Day

In history and across various civilizations, festivities are often held near each quarter of the seasons. The significance of Lady Day to the early Europeans was not only about a ritual practice, but also about civil contracts in agrarian society. An echo of this old practice remains in the end of the UK fiscal tax year. Other celebrations that fall during this season are the celebration of Holi in India—with colorful powders and mischievous pranks. To read more on the shifting calendars, check out The History of the New Year.

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How was the Equinox Observed by Early People?

sunsymbolThe Oracle’s Library explores the earliest observances of the spring equinox. The equinox is just a fancy word for the day that the hours of light and dark become balanced once again. This milestone initiates the entrance of the season of spring each calendar year.

An explanation behind this change can be found in the apparent movement of the sun throughout the year. At this time, the Earth’s wobble causes the sun’s rays to be directly centered at the equator. At other seasonal quarters throughout the year—such as the winter or summer solstice—the rays would be directed at the latitude of either the Tropic of Capricorn or the Tropic of Cancer in the dead of winter or the height of midsummer.

The Great Sphinx and the Egyptian Sunrise

The Sphinx is the most mysterious colossal statue that guards the western gate of the heavens in myth and can be seen situated at the edge of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. What makes this statue so intriguing is the speculation behind its origins and the purpose of its existence. On the day of the equinox, the Sphinx gazes at the eastern sunrise to capture a glimpse of the astrological sign of the age.

sphinx

The Precession of the Equinox

Each year the sun can be spotted occupying a sign—and year after year it can be seen inching its way through this same sign, when just about 2,160 years pass. For hundreds of years the sun occupies the same sign on the day of the spring equinox—then one miraculous day at sunrise, the sign is replaced by the next zodiac sign! This movement is caused by precession, and it was once widely considered to signal the dawn of a new age in ancient times.

This cycle takes a total of 26,000 years to complete for all twelve astrological signs, and in this way, the zodiac give us an easy visual representation of the cycles of the Earth’s wobble or precession.

Higan—A Buddhist Tradition of Japan

During both the days surrounding the spring and autumn equinox, Japan is touched by a spell of mild weather between the peak of the seasons. This holiday falls at a time when there is much tranquility in the minds of many Buddhists.

buddhisthigan

The tradition of higan dates back to the 8th Century CE, and the name itself is reminiscent of a euphemism found many times over in Buddhist literature. While Shigan means “this shore,” Higan is “the far shore” or the other side of the river, which is always a much more rewarding though daunting of a task to reach. But the story behind the tradition is themed with Enlightenment or the Buddhist utopia of Nirvana—a path to Pure Land at the other side of the bank.

In this case, the equinox is a time to observe the higan of life—or the purest thoughts that draw us to the ideal side of the riverbank. At this time of year, Buddhists in Japan shed the shigan or ego-driven thoughts that bind them to the shore from the dreams that lie on “the far shore”. This equinox observance helps the Buddhists of Japan cross from the side of ignorance and suffering into the promise of peace and tranquility.

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Photo Credit: Elisofon, Eliot. The Great Sphinx at Smithsonian Collections
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Elements and Archetypes of the Zodiac

I'm On Astrology By Answers.comThe Oracle’s Library dives deep into the explanation behind elemental archetypes. What do the elements of the zodiac actually mean?

Some have never given a second thought to the zodiac elements and what they might symbolize. The four elements that symbolize the zodiac archetypes can be found across various forms of divination. Fire, earth, air and water are the same archetypes as wands, pentacles, swords and cups that give meaning to situations in tarot, just as they build personality and relationships in astrology.

To learn more about the zodiac signs and what each assigned element means, check out my latest article on Astrology.Answers.com, Zodiac Elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water.

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When it comes to personality, the elements fire, earth, air and water give us insight into the masculine and feminine archetypal qualities found within the twelve zodiac.

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