In those terrible times of heresies and burnings at the stake, of secrets and torture, the Church declared them to be the work of Satan and they were banned.
King Henry VIII defied the ban and their next public appearance was one hundred and thirty years later, on the marvellous clock at Hampton Court in London.
But why did the Church ban these innocent little glyphs in the first place? Hadn't they evolved between astrologers over the centuries? If not then who devised them? Had the makers of the clock crystallised them to suit their own ends? Did these glyphs fan the flames that consumed Jan Hus? And start the Hussite Wars? Is there anything about them we should know today? Would you like to find out?
If so read on and welcome to our territory. We hope you enjoy your visit.
The Ram was not the first to open the year. Around 6000 years ago when the world was ruled by gods & demons, and growing corn was in its infancy, the Bull occupied that place. (See 'Aphrodite's Hymn'). The Ram took over from him. By that time the Greek Zodiac had arrived, and all 12 houses had been named more or less as we know them today. (See 'Precession of Equinoxes')
But from out of the blue and steeped in medieval mystery came 12 hieroglyphs calling themselves 'The Signs of the Zodiac'. They appear to fit but they don't. They are the subject of our investigations.
The sign for the Aries the Ram shows him sowing corn to right and left, but the myth about him adds another dimension. He was Zeus's Ram.
He could talk and he could reason. He embodied the 'LOGOS', meaning 'Reason', 'Saying' and Word'.
If the words he was sowing took root in an ancient bicameral brain with its time-honoured, omnipotent but mute body-spirit, those words could create an inner voice. This would develop into an inner spirit.
Aries was sacrificed in Colchis. His flesh was eaten, his blood was drunk and they nailed his beautiful golden fleece to a tree.
If the seed takes root it must have good ground to grow, whether it be corn or words. King Minos of Crete, son of Europa and the Bull, made laws that caused men to think and modify their behaviour. Mind had to rule the body.
This made use of the new inner voice, fortified the spirit that used it and strengthened the new spiritual side of the mind.
After death they said a person with a new spirit would be directed to the Elysian Fields for re-birth if used for the greater good; to live on asphodel and twitter for eternity if unused, or to eternal torment in Tartarus if used for evil purposes.
Nobody knew where the new spirit came from. Few people had one. They said it was divine, that it would separate from its old silent twin, and then would take control.
This was seen as a divine process that resulted in the birth of an inner person. A huge event in anybody's life, and, in the life of humanity.
This inner person would be able to reason, to answer for his actions and have access to both body and mind. It is known today as 'I'.
Is it a surprise that this event was romanticised: A divine child, born at Christmas to a virgin, to take mankind from darkness into light.
But what about his twin?
Instead of the Crab this sign is made up of two 6's and gives us six months for the first and six for the second halves of the year.
The story was that the corn plant was the work of a rain god, but a sun god ripened the seed. They changed places at the solstices.
The seed held the spirit, and this gave the idea that one god created the material world, and another, (superior) god, created the spiritual world.
This was the doctrine of religious dualism, which had ended by 1400. However holding back the body in favour of the mind became a strong part of religious practice.
'His bending joints and drooping head,
showed he began to fail'
The next four signs depict formal 'Symbols of Office': two male and two female. This sign depicts a shepherd's crook.
This is the 'good shepherd' who guides his sheep, leading them into new modes of behaviour: sayings and instructions that could all lead to an increasing self-awareness.
Eventually this would result in the inner voice establishing itself. The flock would become alive and be able to think for themselves.
These doughty souls would then have to think 'I will do this and not do that' to make it permanent, and so avoid the awful 'Twittering Fate'.
'They took a weapon long and sharp,
and cut him at the knee'
There was a widespread worship of two goddesses in the ancient Indo European world, one for life above ground and the other for life under the surface, (see our 'Eleusinian Mysteries'). The one that we are concerned with here is Demeter, and our picture shows her as a bride, (see 'Betley Window'). In the symbol she is seen wielding a scythe.
The Goddess is earth, Demeter, the 'Mother of the Barley', and she is the granddaughter of Gaia in the Greek myths. She is always seen with Persephone her virgin daughter, the dark Queen of the Underworld. For two thousand years they guided men, women and even slaves through the Eleusinian Mysteries, perhaps on a journey from darkness into light.
The sign for Virgo is based on the letter 'M' for 'Mary'.
This sign depicts the flails above a thrashing-floor. In Aries the seed 'dies' to grow the plant, and in the opposite sign Libra, the plant 'dies' to release the seed. The flails are the second male symbol of office.
Law that enabled a settled society to function had to be enforced, and flails symbolised that enforcement.
The thrashing-floor was also used as a law court and indeed we still 'thrash things out in court' looking for 'grains of truth'.
The god Osiris (like many others) is seen with crook & flails to show his absolute authority in both these fields
Scorpio winnows corn from chaff but the sting in her tail also depicts scales, the second female symbol. She is Queen of the Underworld, and she has many names.
In Greek myth she is Demeter's daughter Kore (the Virgin), who was called Persephone when she returned from the Underworld (see overview).
The Romans combined her with her mother, called her Ceres and stood her above their law-courts. She is still there, sword in one hand and scales of justice in the other.
The letter "M" stands for Mary, and in Capricorn she gives birth to the divine child conceived in Aries.
Chiron the Centaur who inhabits this constellation was a pupil of Apollo, who taught him the art of logical reasoning. This new faculty stemmed from calibrating the year by the sun against the stars (by the Magi), and on the horizon (by the Druids).
In his turn Chiron was the tutor to several kings and heroes, as was Aristotle to Alexander.
It has been said that Aristotle, Plato and Descartes set Europe on the road to develop the superb mind we have today, and bring peace to the world. But what happens when such a mind inhabits a body driven by greed and the lust for power?
The sign for 'Goat Horn' is made up of a 6 and a 7 to celebrate the 13 month year.
Zagreus of Crete is the he-goat in Capricorn and takes us into Dionysian fields.
He invented beer (so the story goes) and with Sabazius in Thrace, and Iacchus (who took part in the Mysteries) he grew to be a strong civilising force in Grecian culture.
Eventually the vine Dionysus took over the arts: poetry, dance, theatre, and of course - religion.
Orpheus opened a new chapter by trying to redeem his soul from the underworld. He failed, but he did show us where to look ...
'And the rain fell upon the earth
forty days and forty nights'
This sign is Thunder, Lightening and Rain, old Thunderguts in person, husband of the earth and creative god of the material world. He was the 'lesser god' of dualism.
It was said that without him we would have no material body to house the intellect we all enjoy today.
Christian doctrine denounced all dualist ideas as heresy, and stressed the establishment of the mind. By restricting carnal pleasures this has been achieved. Alas, it has brought a great danger to the world.
The way forward is outlined in Pisces with a Babylonian version of the story of Cain & Abel.
"A farmer and his wife prayed for a child for fifteen years when a boy was born to them. They called him "Good" to thank the gods. But then another boy was born and him they called "Bad", because the gods had taken so long. The twins grew well, but they quarrelled and when their parents died they split the farm and Bad made off with all the livestock except for one cow.
Good and his wife struggled with the farm but the cow ate everything it could. There was never a surplus.
They had no children but before long they found a baby boy by their river. They raised him lovingly, but though he grew fields of good corn the farm still did not prosper.
One day on the furthest edge of the farm the young man met a lively young woman with a herd of goats, and they fell in love.
She was the daughter of Bad and his wife, and when the two young people married the twins made up and joined the farm together again.
It started to thrive.
And so Good & Bad grew old with their wives. As they sat together in the evening sunshine enjoying the happiness of their grandchildren their contentment was complete.
'It was the hatred that made us so stupid' they said.
Have you noticed how the year has been divided between the spiritual and the mundane, with the ciphers for the two gods anchoring it at the solstices? We have followed this format using John Barleycorn quotes in green that take us back to Aleyin & Mot and into the bicameral brain. These four symbols echo the Harvest Passion that we celebrate at Easter, which, with the Resurrection of the Body, underpins the Christian Church. The Christian Faith has very old roots.
The biblical quotes in red take us into those Greek Myths concerned with nurturing the new spirit (see Spirit & Soul) that makes the 'Observation, Theory and Experiment' of modern science possible. Although the Eleusinian Mysteries have contributed much to Christianity, the Greek input has been mostly responsible for the other side of the equation : Gnosticism.
Constantine wanted an identifiable religion and the Gnostics, with their plethora of ideas, were not included. Thus was the Holy Roman Church born. But the Gnostics, who had more in common with Mani than with Constantine, didn't go away.
So after a thousand years and having dealt with Cathars and Knights Templar, is it any surprise that the Church should raise an eyebrow when these glyphs appeared on the clock in Prague, and what follows is an attempt to show how this came about.
We start our story with Jadwiga, the resourceful Queen of Poland, in anguish that her land is being invaded by the Teutonic Knights. They were the crusading military wing of the Catholic Church, and their main interest was not really in spreading the Gospel. Poland was already Christian. It would seem that Pope Innocent didn't quite know what they were up to.
They were also invading parts Lithuania, so Jadwiga used her charms on the pagan Jagiello and persuaded him that he would be better off as a Christian. So he cut down his last circle of Oaks, was baptised, married Jadwiga in 1386, and declared himself King of the Christian kingdom of Lithuania. Alas the ploy didn't work. No band of missionaries arrived to make it official, and the Teutonic Knights continued trying to annex his lands. This infuriated him. Jadwiga suggested they join forces and resist their common foe.
Their task would be formidable. Whilst they could muster a larger force it was outclassed. The Teutons were fabulously wealthy, could count on battle hardened mercenaries all ferociously skilled in the arts of war, and they continued to gain ground from the start of the hostilities that ensued.
But fortune favours the brave. Jagiello engaged one mercenary commander who turned out to be a military genius. He was a protégé of the bohemian Holy Roman Emperor, King Wenceslas, and had been brought up in his court. His name was Zyzka.
It took some time but the Teutonic Knights were decimated at the Battle of Grunewald in 1410. Their power was broken, their wealth confiscated, and they became a spent force. Zyzka had lost one eye in the battles, but nevertheless decided to further his career by moving to Prague, where trouble was brewing.
Now - In 1340 there arrived in Oxford a prophet of renown from Wycliffe - on Tees who did not like what was happening to the Christian Faith. He saw that the Curia, (which ran the show from Rome), was autonomous and departing from the scriptures whenever it suited them, followed by the Monasteries and the Clergy. He saw that the only way forward was to translate the Bible into a language that ordinary people could understand, and had completed that task by 1383. About 2000 copies were produced. He also wrote many papers on this subject, and all this before printing was possible.
His work was taken up by Jan Hus, who translated his papers and taught his ideas whilst he was rector of the CharlesV university in Prague. His followers were called Hussites. His Professor of mathematics was called Johannes Schindler (possibly a refugee Don from Cordoba) who suggested they build an astronomical clock to put in the town square. By the fateful year of 1410 it was nearing completion.
In the meantime, whilst the Papacy was suffering the Great Schism, Pope Innocent had been succeeded by Pope Gregory XII, and the French Pope Benedict XIII was still coasting along happily in Amiens. In the fateful year of 1410 both lost control of their Cardinals who banded together and elected Antipope John XXIII. He was desperate for money and started collecting in Prague and elsewhere in Bohemia by any means at his disposal, but mostly by selling indulgences. This was the fuse that lit the powder. Indulgences were hated by the Hussites.
So. The Papacy was in disarray and their law-enforcement crew was out of action. The Hussites had had good friends in Jadwiga & Jagiello and a military genius thinking the unthinkable. The clock was put in place using the Cathar/Templars circle of heretical glyphs for their astrological dial. A red rag to a bull, and the reaction was not long in coming. The symbols were banned as being the work of Satan by Gregory XII, but neither by Pope Benedict nor by Pope John.
In Prague the followers of Jan Hus were preaching against buying indulgences saying they had no foundation in the scriptures, and Wenceslas went into the country urging caution, but nobody paid attention. Wenceslas's brother Sigismund was made H.R.E. in that year. The ex-Knights Templar who had settled in Prague sharpened their swords and the Bohemians prepared for war. The stalemate lasted until 1415 when both Popes Gregory and John were deposed by Pope Martin V. Pope Benedict in Amiens was excommunicated but paid no attention and sat on his seat until by the time he died only Scotland still acknowledged him as Pope.
In 1415 Pope Martin invited Jan Hus was to the Council of Constance to argue against his accusations of heresy. Sigismund promised him safety, but the new Pope disallowed his authority. Jan Hus was flung into a dark and dismal dungeon whilst his case was being argued, and then burned at the stake.
Pope Martin then preached a Bull authorising a Crusade to exterminate all Hussites and Wycliffites, but these people, enraged by what had happened, were well prepared. Five crusades were mounted, and all five were repulsed, the last being when the Papal forces were humiliated and ran away without firing a shot.
In 1432 with the Treaty of Basle, the Hussites gained most of what they wanted, and by the end of the century around 90% of Bohemians were non-Catholic.
Alas Zyzka lost a lower leg in the second battle, his other eye in the fourth, and he died of the Plague before the fifth. However he was without doubt a star in this triumph of the Hussites.
Sigismund remained Holy Roman Emperor until 1437.
Jan Hus is the crux of this story. He was a brave man who suffered martyrdom rather than yielding to the Inquisition, and took his place as the Czech national hero. Today he and John Wycliffe are regarded as the 'Grandfathers of the Reformation'.
And the Astronomical clock in Prague still has its original dial of heretical Zodiac Glyphs for everybody to see.
The ever growing turmoil of the last 5000 years has been caused by the development of the human brain, from the primitive bicameral that had no centre of consciousness to give identity to the being, to the wonderful set-up that we all take for granted today. Identity has been such a crucial part of this development that when you think about it the division of the being into body and spirit was the only way possible of doing this. But it wouldn't happen by itself. The focus had to shift from the demands of the body to the understanding of the mind.
By offering 'The Resurrection of the Body' in return for a condemnation of bodily pleasures The Holy Roman Church diverted a vast bank of energy that furthered the process, and Europe led the way. But over the years the turmoil increased.
Today the task is finished. We have achieved a mind that can understand the universe. What more is possible? We can all relax and enjoy ourselves.
Or we could, except the turmoil is now more ferocious than ever. No matter how much we can see how good thinking could change our Earth into a Paradise we seem unable to realise that dream. Maybe the task is not yet completed. Maybe there is a sting in the tail of Pisces. Or perhaps Mysterium Conjunctus holds a clue.