Pagan History: the Eagle’s Eye View

History is the collection of stories that we tell about our pasts to make sense of who we are now. They can and most often do look to the future and are never simply a recounting of events that have happened. There would be no point to learning history if it were simply the sum of things that have happened. At any rate, were that all there was to history then by that definition we are history as we are the sum total, the end result of all that has come before. No, history is about narrative, and as such it is a subset of myth. I know full well that in the modern viewpoint history is set in opposition to myth because myths supposedly never actually happened. You have to ask yourself why a story’s accuracy really matters before you argue that myth and history are opposed and not identical.

That’s not really the point of this post anyway here at the balance point between the light and the darkness. Instead, I want to take a step back — well, up really — and sketch out a pagan’s outline of history. Properly this would be a book, but really I do want to keep it as skeletal as possible. For the bones of this skeleton I’m going to use the Pagan Reckoning (PR) I briefly mentioned at the full moon, and it is worth keeping in mind my definition of traditional paganism that informs everything on this blog. It is also worth keeping in mind that my take on knowledge is not to deny forms of knowledge — in other words, scientific knowledge is perfectly valid — but to embrace forms of knowledge to see what happens when we move beyond them rather than shy away from them.

Titanomachy

I don’t want to spend too long on this, but prior to the awakening of humanity, what we think of as reality was a complicated series of interactions from the Big Bang to the movement of the tectonic plates. Properly speaking, I should treat this section with the reverence and awe that it deserves but will at this time skip over it by simply saying that the cosmic, planetary, and geotectonic forces at play up to the formation of anatomically modern humans corresponds to the early pagan narratives of creation. Hesiod’s Titanomachy corresponds to the violent forces that formed our planet and our landscape. The Egyptian emergence of creation out of chaos and the Babylonian concept of Tiamat resonate with our understanding of how phenomenal reality emerged from the quantum chaos that existed prior to the Big Bang.

It still exists, by the way, so in a literal way our reality truly is a small flake of wax floating on a sea of ancient, primeval chaos.

Yeah, it’s probably best not to think about it too much.

Concerning the Ages of the World

Just because my view is traditionally pagan, my view of history does not have to adhere to the historiography of the classical authors. Rather, I would like to take modern, scientific versions of history and adopt them to traditional pagan ideas, most particularly that the movements we see are the outward manifestations of supernal realities.

To arrange our history into convenient periods all we need do is look to the heavens, those shining bodies that our ancestors saw as being possessed of the purest influence from the divine. Just in case your astrology is a little rusty, here is a quick reminder.

  1. There are nine heavenly bodies that move through twelve zodiacal signs.
  2. The seven celestial bodies are: the moon, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter. (Uranus, Neptune and Jupiter were later additions as they were not visible until relatively recently.)
  3. The earth rotates on an axis that is tilted with regard to the sun so that the zodiac and thus the path of the planets seems to move higher and lower in the sky as the year progresses, thereby giving us the solstices and equinoxes.
  4. The earth’s axis is not stationary with regard to its orbit but precesses, its axis rotating in such a way that the sun’s place in the sky at the Spring Equinox seems to travel westward through the zodiac every couple millennia. It thus takes about 26,000 years for one precession to come full circle. You might know this as a Great or Platonic Year but I like to call it a Zodiacal Age because an Astrological Age is the time during which the equinoxes are within a single zodiacal sign.

This is where we begin our journey through time, because we can roughly map out 26,000 year periods. The earliest remains of anatomically modern humans are about 200,000 years old, which places us in the eighth Great Year since the rise of humanity. The development of settled farming communities happened during the Neolithic Revolution about half a Great Year ago (12,500 years). Half-way between then and those earliest finds, speech developed, which means that three Great Years passed between the development of speech and the Neolithic Revolution.

It is in an important point because every form of traditional paganism maintains that our ancestors watch over us from beyond the grave. Even if only one or two from every third or fourth generation takes an interest in us here today or in some way passes on the benefit of their good will, then we are still looking at tens of thousands of friendly ghosts working for our protection and guidance. What is more, the vast majority will all be traditional pagans from those many many years prior to the Neolithic Revolution. This is an aspect that I dearly wish to expand on, but it is not for this time to do so.

 

The Seeds of the Gods

What makes a god a god? Obviously, a god is interested in human affairs while a not-god, i.e. a titan, a giant, nymphs or kako-daimons, are really not or at least not necessarily interested in our well-being. The now-old saying that man created god in his own image has lost its irony because the originally Christian notion of God creating man in His image is no longer ubiquitous. Nevertheless there is an almost omniprevalent notion that gods and goddesses have only a psychological reality. In other words, mankind invented the gods to be icons of uniquely human mental faculties. To ask whether this is the case or rather that humans have these faculties because the gods invested humans with them — and that is what is truly meant by the creation of humanity — is like asking whether or not our waking life is just another layer of dream. How could you tell? Why does it really matter?

Historically speaking it does matter because the origin of humanity seven Great Years ago is bound up in this cosmological question: did the gods have a hand in creation or did mankind just emerge out of chaos and invent gods as the faces of themselves in the same way that Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway invents a friend in Wilson? I am contented to say that the four-thousand-some-odd generations of humans who lived as traditional pagans had the time and opportunity to arrive at the most accurate if not most precise point of view, which is to say that they saw the former as being the more true. The gods most certainly had a hand in the formation of humanity.

It’s a very hopeful message, really. Not only are there thousands of generations of ancestors who have a vested interest in seeing you prevail, but there are core, supernal realities that want to see you succeed in the grand scope of All That Is. Now that has nothing to do with your parking spaces, your taxes, your in-laws, or your kids — in fact it has very little to do with with what you want at all, really — but there are forces at work that will make sure that your story works out for the best in terms of humanity.

Actually, maybe that’s not as inspiring as it seemed one paragraph ago.

Anyway, the point is that human history is intimately bound up with the gods, and we see it playing out in the structure of history. Here’s how it works …

The seven celestial bodies (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter) resonate (let’s say) with the gods who are most concerned with life on this planet, and as the pinnacle of life on this planet humans factor greatly into their concerns. Jupiter and Saturn represent the socio-political forces in the former and the forces of beginnings and endings in the latter. Thus their conjunctions mark important shifts in the life of humanity’s body politic. These Great Conjunctions occur every nineteen years or so, but almost always in zodiacal signs associated with the same elemental associations.

triplicities-elements-02

When the Great Conjunctions move from one elemental association to another, an Elemental Age comes to a close though they always follow the same pattern: fire, earth, air, and water. Ages vary in length, but they are always between 179 and 200 years. When a cycle of ages ends and a new cycle begins, this is the end of an Era by the Pagan Reckoning or PR.

In this way we can look back at our history since the beginning of the Bronze Age and see that it breaks down into three Ages: the Bronze Age, the Axial Age, and the Modern Age. (Remember that cc. is my abbreviation for chronognomons which is the word for the period between Great Conjunctions.)

The Bronze Age:

The First Bronze Era:

Long Fire Age: 12 cc., 238 years     (Sep. -3263 – Oct. -3025)
Full Earth Age: 10 cc., 199 years    (Oct. -3025 – May -2826)
Air Age: 9 cc., 179 years                    (May -2826 – June -2647)
Water Age: 9 cc., 178 years              (June -2647 – Oct. -2469)

By most calculations, the equinox occurred without fail in the sign of Taurus throughout this entire Era. It saw the beginning of civilization as we know it, for it was during its Long Age of Fire that the Indus Valley Civilization of India formed. Upper and Lower Egypt were first unified under King Menes under the First Dynasty of Egyptian Pharaohs. The first known systems of phonetic writing were established in several regions and of course bronze began to be worked regularly. Significantly, the Mayan Long Count, famous now for its conclusion in 2012, began during the 150th year of the Long Age of Fire on August 11th (-3113, according to some calculations). This Age also saw the construction of the Newgrange passage tomb, Brú na Bóinne, in Ireland as well as the first development of Stonehenge’s site as a ritual landscape, though it would not include stone structures until the Water Age when the Pyramid of Giza was constructed. The early Dynastic period of Sumeria lasted for the whole of this first Era, giving way to the Akkadian Empire during the Fire Age of the Second Bronze Era.

There are also closer distinctions to be made within the Era itself as well. The stages of Stonehenge’s development, for example, fall into three divisions that span the first two Bronze Eras, the sub-periods of Stonehenge aligning along the divisions between Ages. Stage I began with the construction of a circular bank and ditch in the middle of the Long Fire Age. Stage II, when the monument seems to have become a cremation cemetery incorporating a number of wooden poles, began shortly after the beginning of the Earth Age, but it was not until  some time about the beginning of the Water Age that stone was incorporated into the monument. This third stage is sub-divided into five successive periods that span well into the Second Bronze Era, but stages III-1 and III-2 were concurrent with this First Bronze Era’s Water Age.

The Second Bronze Era:

Fire Age: 9 cc., 180 years                       (Oct., -2469 – Sep., -2290)
Long Earth Age: 12 cc., 239 years       (Sep., -2290 – Oct., -2052)
Full Air Age: 10 cc., 200 years             (Oct., -2052 – June, -1853)
Water Age: 9 cc., 180 years                  (June, -1853 – July, -1674)

Most of Europe did not actually gain the working of Bronze until this Second Bronze Era when the techniques devised in the Near Eastern and Ægean regions spread out across the rest of the continent. By the beginning of the Full Air Age of this Era, bronze working had reached Britain and Ireland, while it would not reach Scandinavia until nearly the end of the Water Age. The German prehistorian Paul Reinecke divided this period of history in central Europe into Bronze A1 (2300–2000 CR), which corresponded roughly to the Long Earth Age, and Bronze A2 (1950–1700 CR) which corresponded roughly to the Full Air and Water Ages.

During this time, the language of the peoples who occupied most of Europe began to develop distinct dialects which would in time become the Celtic and Germanic languages. During this Second Bronze Era, these were termed Proto-Celtic and Proto-Germanic and were still mutually intelligible right down until the Third Bronze Era.

Around the Aegean Sea, cultures continued to develop up until the close of this Second Bronze Era. At the end of its Long Earth Age, Cycladic culture was eclipsed by the increasingly powerful Minoan culture about the same time that Helladic culture moved from its Early to Middle phases. At the end of this Era, however, a great cataclysm destroyed the palaces of Minoan Crete although whether this was caused by a natural disaster or by an invasion is still open for debate. North and West of the Aegean, many pottery styles identified as belonging to various cultures of continental Europe emerged during this same Era; the Beaker culture of central and western Europe and the Unetice culture with its Tumulus descendants both flourished during this Second Bronze era. Across the whole of Europe, changes in the Archaeological record align roughly in accordance with the transitions from one Elemental Age to the next and particularly from one Era to the next.

In last quarter of this Full Air Age, the small administrative centre of Babylon blossomed into a powerful city-state in its own right, surpassing Nippur as the preeminent holy city during the reign of Hammurabi sixty years into the Water Age.

The Indus Valley Civilization of India reached a state of full maturity during the Water Age of the First Bronze Era in the form of the early Harappan phase. Subsequent phases map easily onto the Fire and Long Earth Ages of this Second Bronze Era. By the end of Air Age, this Harappan phase began to transition, changing its pottery and social structure into the forms it would take during the Third Bronze Era. Throughout the Second, however, the Indus Valley Civilization cultivated its own system of writing and an elaborate technological, religious, and economic life that would form the basis for a number of later civilizations.

The Third Bronze Era:

Long Fire Age: 12 cc., 238 years        (July, -1674 – Sept., -1436)
Full Earth Age: 10 Cc., 198 years      (Sept., -1436 – July, -1238)
Long Air Age: 12 Cc., 239             (July, -1238 – May, -999)
Water Age: 9 cc., 178 years                   (May, -999 – Nov., -821)

In the wake of the upheavals that closed the Water Age of the Second Bronze Era, a new cultural matrix arose around the Aegean with aesthetic exchange between Minoan, Helladic and the now developing Mycenaean culture of Greece itself. The rise of Mycenae and its allied city-states was heroic in nature and spread by conquest rather than trade. Warriors were buried in passage tombs with a great deal of wealth, and later Greek civilization during the Axial Eras would remember the martial prowess of the Mycenaean warriors despite a number of discrepancies between the burials that have since survived and those later described by Homer in the Iliad.

During the Long Air Age, the Trojan War was fought, though archaeology suggests that it must have taken place later in the Water Age. During this last Bronze Era, China developed its first fully historical dynasty, that of the Shang or Yin.  Among the Celto-Germanic peoples of Europe, a new practice of burial became widespread: the burial of the dead in raised earthen mounds called tumuli. This is the time when the classic Celtic culture so prized by many pagans of European descent developed, and it was at the end of the Third Bronze Water Age that a whole new chapter of humanity would develop.

 The Axial Age:

The First Axial Era:

Fire Age: 9 cc., 180 years                        (Nov., -821 — Nov., -642 )
Long Earth Age: 12 cc., 240 years        (Nov., 1 -642 — Aug., -402)
Air Age: 9 Cc: 178 years                           (Aug., -403 — Nov., -225)
Full Water Age:  10 cc., 200 years        (Nov., -225 —June, -26)

With the opening of the First Axial Era and the transition into the Iron Age, a completely new period of human development arises. During the 180 years of its Fire Age, the Kingdom of Rome was founded along with the primary city-states of Greece including Athens and Sparta. While Jewish tradition holds that God dictated the books of the Torah to Moses during the middle of the third Bronze Era, scholarship of the last century has asserted that its books were a compilation of texts composed during this Fire Age and brought together during the Long Age of Earth (only to be corrupted in its closing years). The Halstatt culture of the continental Celts emerged on the banks of the Danube with the first stirring of its heroic, raiding culture that would remain central to Celtic culture until the Modern Era.

If the Fire Age saw the first stirring of human ascendance, the Long Age of Earth saw its nearly explosive rise. 55 years into this Age saw the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity (235–285 A1), when prominent members of the court of Judea under king Jehoiakim were deported from Jerusalem to Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar II. The cultural influence during the 59 years of the Babylonian Captivity was extensive and did not just influence Jewish culture.

By legend, it was in the year 133 of the Earth Age (13 vii E: i.e. the thirteenth year of the eighth chronognomon of the First Axial Age of Earth) that the Kingdom of Rome underwent its transformation into a republic that would last until the last chrona. of this Era. If you are not sure how far the influence of this one occurrence reaches then I suggest you either go back to school or start reading some real history books. I’m not saying it was a good thing. I’m just saying it had wide-reaching ramifications.

After the militarism and heroism of the Long Age of Earth a more philosophic and rarified period during the near two centuries of the Air Age opened a wholly new scale of social development. It was in this Age that Alexander the Great brought Greece, Egypt and Persia under one rule, though his death would see the fragmentation of his ‘empire’ in v A:A2 (79–99 A:A2 — that is in the fifth chronognomon between the 79th and 99th years of the Second Axial Age’s Air Age).

The Second Axial Era:

Fire Age: 9 cc., 180 years         (June, -26 — July, 154)
Earth Age: 9 cc., 179 years         (July, 154 —Nov., 332)
Long Age of Air: 12 cc., 240 years     (Nov., 332 —Aug., 571)
Full Water Age: 10 cc., 200 years     (Aug., 571 — July, 769)

This Era is dominated by the rise of Abrahamic Orthodoxy in Europe, most notably in the form of Islam and Christianity, alongside the formation of the Western European kingdoms. These kingdoms formed the basis of the later states of the Modern Era, but it was the focus on religious orthodoxy that properly characterized this Second Axial Era.

Dominating the European Fire Age of this Era, Rome transitioned fully from a Republic to an Empire. At the same time, the syncretic, religious culture of the Empire combined with its large-scale economic and bureaucratic structures to create a fertile ground for the rooting and growth of primitive Christianity. This was the time of gnosticism and the writing of the gospels, to say nothing of the peculiar combining of Roman and Celtic cultic practices.

During this Earth Age, the cohesion of the Roman Empire began to fray. In 143 F Rome had achieved its greatest reach, but the sheer size of its dominion necessitated the split of Roman governmental administration in 139 E, dividing Mediterranean Europe effectively into the Greek East and the Latin West. From that point on, Western Rome suffered from poor leadership, and social pressure resultant from the influx of Germanic-speaking refugee-tribes.

It was in this Full Age of Water that Islam arose and entrenched itself in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The Third Axial Era:

Long Age of Fire: 12 cc., 240 years     (July 769 — Nov 1007)
Earth Age: 9 cc., 179 years         (Nov., 1007 — Nov., 1186)
Air Age: 9 cc: 180 years             (Nov., 1186 — March, 1365)
Long Age of Water: 12 cc., 240 years      (March, 1365 — Dec., 1603)

After the rise of Islam, a new chapter opened with the first Great Conjunction marking the beginning of the Third Axial Era. In this Era arose the chivalric kingdoms of Europe with their knights, castles, kings and queens. In fact, almost the entirety of what we think of the Middle Ages corresponds to this Third Axial Era. It was here that the mighty Tang dynasty in China, weakened by the An Lushan Rebellion (Ax2: 184–192 E), changed significantly with the rise of increased local autonomy and its final collapse into the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (138–181 F). The Long Age of Water gave rise to colonialism, the Renaissance, and the Reformation. In fact, the modern world as we know it developed in this Era and particularly in its Long Age of Water.

The Modern Age:

Full Fire Age: 10 cc: 198.5 years (Dec 1603 — July 1802)
Earth Age: 9 cc: 178.5 years (July 1802 — Dec 1980)
Air Age: 9 cc., 179 years (Dec 1980 — Dec 2159)
Water Age: 9 cc., 178.3 years (Dec 2159 — April 2338)

the shift into the Modern Era was hardly unrecognized. Just about everyone knew that the past was being left behind and the future entered into with world-altering consequences. Nowhere was this more evident than in England where Elizabeth Tudor died in March of the inaugural year of Modernity and was succeeded by James VI of Scotland. From that point on, the world spun into an era dominated by European Imperialism. Africa, India, the Americas, Asia: every continent was affected. In China, the Manchurian leader, Nurhaci, was named Sure Kundulen Khan, precipitating the end of the Ming Dynasty which had ruled China during the preceding Long Age of Water (since Axial 3: 3 W).

Most history books of the last century consider the Full Fire Age of this Modern Era to constitute largely the Early Modern Period. There has been a trend since 20A to extend the Early Modern Period back into the Long Age of Water purely because the changes of the first four chrona. in Europe can be linked to events like the invention of the printing press in Axial 3: 85 W. Nevertheless, almost all agree that it ended with the opening of the French Revolution in 286 F. The subsequent Napoleonic Wars (2–14 E) and the changes they precipitated were symptomatic of the transition from the disastrous conflicts of the Fire Age: the religious wars and Imperialism of Europe, the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, Zicheng’s Peasant Rebellion along with the usurping of the Ming Dynasty by the Qing in China, and rise of new powers in the Americas. It only makes sense, then that the first Age of the Modern Era is identical with the Early Modern Period recognized by modern scholarship.

What we think of as modern history primarily took place during the Modern Age of Earth. It was during this period that the United States flourished into a superpower and the Cold War between the Eastern and Western Blocs occurred. It was in this period that the violence and imperialism of the Fire Age bore rebellious fruit in the counterculture movements of Bohemianism, Marxism, the Beat Generation, post-colonialism, and feminism. It was in this period that many cultures turned away from the conservative attitudes of the past and valourized the abandonment of older ideas and perceptions in favour of a more practically materialistic outlook founded on the Myth of Progress, despite a number of voices that dissented more in nature than in message. Walt Disney in particular was one of these voices in that his narratives married traditional ideas with the optimistic, foreword-thinking of modernity.  It was in this era that most of what is considered technical progress occurred with the advent of modern medicine in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, the widespread promulgation of the internal combustion engine, the development of computational technology, and the development of mass media as it is known today.

There is more to this, however, as this was also the Age of pandemic and systemized evil. While the end of open, institutionalized slavery occurred during the Modern Age of Earth, rampant nationalism and modern diplomacy brought about World War I and II with the unprecedented violence of Nazi Germany against the Jews, the Imperial Japanese against the Chinese, and Stalin’s nightmarish regime against the Russian people. This is the Age in which Science with its claims of mastery and truth gave rise to oppressive systems of economics and thought with the rise of debt as a system of social control and media as an avenue of manipulative influence.

One could almost also call this the Age of Cholera as on April 10th, 13E, the volcano Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa erupted killing some 100,000 people. This was just the beginning, however, as climatic changes mutated the cholera strain in the Bay of Bengal. With almost no immunity, the disease swept the globe in pandemic waves. The first in 15i–2ii E (1817–1823 CR) affected mostly India and Asia. The second in 7ii–7iii (1829–1849 CR) expanded into Europe and North America through travel and trade. The third in 10–17iii (1852–1859) was the most devastating, killing more than 23,000 people in Britain alone in the year of 12iii. The fourth pandemic of 2–18iv (1863–1879) was mitigated by a greater knowledge of the disease, its mechanisms and effect on the human body.  Further pandemics, the fifth in 1–15v and the sixth in 18v–2vi, were mitigated by improved strategies for limiting its spread and the eventual devising of a vaccine in 11v by the Ukrainian bacteriologist Waldemar Haffkine. This saw the end of cholera pandemics until the final chron. of the Modern Earth Age, but other diseases like influenza would have its own death toll.

Ok … if you’re still reading I think you’ll have gotten the picture. At least you’ll recognize that I can get really carried away by history. It’s all just so interesting! Hopefully you’ll also have noticed that our modern dating by the birth of the Nazarene is not only vague but also  of little use when looking at events across multiple cultures and topics. A pagan dating can look at things from so many angles and talk about things in such precise terms … but I’m “preaching to the choir.” Tomorrow I will post on the nature of time and how these minutiae play into a different notion of time than you might otherwise entertain.

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