One of my favorite fantasy movies, in which just about all of it is unhistorical and quite fantastic is The 13th Warrior. It’s a great adventure yarn if you can forget everything you know about history except the fact that an Arab writer did once encounter the Vikings, and wrote about these amazing people, ‘tall as palm trees’ for the Arabs. The number thirteen has an archetypal ring to it. Viewing the movie for about the fifth time started a train of thought about a real thirteen that has been ignored in favor of a mentally constructed twelve. Here’s the train.
We’ve all been brought up on the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The one thing common in any audience of people, whatever their profession or work is that they all know their birth sign. The Twelve have been used to develop astrology and provide analogies for all kinds of observed phenomena. Most people take them for granted. Unexamined assumptions are the causes of many human problems, particularly religious fanaticism.
Thinking about the esoteric values of numbers we can see that, yes indeed, 3 x 4 =12, a masculine prime times the first squared female number = 12. The three laws Create, Sustain, Destroy applied to each of the four seasons gives us our Twelve astrology signs and the notion of cardinal, fixed and mutable. The resulting geometry gives us the aspects of astrology and a huge data base of centuries of observational stuff that can be applied all over the occult and metaphysics.
Even Jesus comes into it with the 12 disciples and He as the Sun round which they revolved, just like a coven of thirteen, not to mention the 12 tribes of Israel each one correlating to a sign of the Zodiac.
And astrology has tremendous merit as a filing cabinet for all sorts of occult stuff. And then there’s the 13 members of the standard coven I just mentioned, and its connection with the great honor of the knighthood or damehood, of the British Order of the Garter.
The Garter was a special ID device worn by the High Priestess long ago in coven work, when the work was often done in the nude. It can still be seen on some very ancient cave paintings of shamans. The Duchess of Salisbury, centuries ago lost her special garter at a Royal occasion. It came off and fell on the floor. What this did was show everyone in the room that she was a High Priestess of the Old Religion.
Edward the king, picked it up and put it on his own leg, saying “Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense” Evil be to he who evil thinks. He took her under his protection. The language of the Court was French in those days. Look on today’s Royal coat of arms. It is the same motto, still in French centuries later, guarded by the lion and the unicorn. There are some VERY ancient matters embodied in the ceremonies associated with British Royalty.
In this country with only about two centuries of history, much of the ancient stuff is printed on the dollar bill, not embodied in national ceremonies. Check my recent post on Templars, Alchemists and Freemasons on the dollar bill.
When the Queen bestows the Order of the Garter on a commoner she wears a cloak with 169 (13 x 13) identical decorated silk garters on it, representing the ancient fact, to those who know, that the monarch is the titular head of the major thirteen covens of Logres, the head of the ancient faith, as well as the titular head of the Church of England. Logres is the name given to the spiritual Britain. You can feel Logres in Glastonbury and other sacred places in Britain. Thirteen is very important to the feminine side of occult work.
How does thirteen apply to the Zodiac of the magazines? Well, the Zodiac is defined in astronomy as the belt of starry constellations through which the Sun, Moon and planets seem to move. It is the starry background of their journeys. But the smallest number of constellations that are defined under that very ancient scheme is not 12. It is actually 13.
Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer is and always has been the 13th constellation on the zodiac belt, but apparently nobody has ever initiated his sign as a member of the Zodiac, possibly because then there wouldn't have been a convenient one constellation for each of the twelve months of the solar calendar year. It would have fitted the feminine 13 month lunar year nicely, but the Sun people won. Patriarchy over matriarchy once again.
Ophiuchus has attached to it a few pieces of interesting trivia, that may not in the end be trifling. It is the only constellation named after a real human, tracing back to an Ancient Egyptian mortal-made-god named Imhotep, who lived in or about the 27th Century B.C. This is not the Imhotep of the Return of the Mummy who lived in the movie in the time of Seti 1 around 1295 BC, and who was probably named after the real thing.
Imhotep was honored by both the Egyptians and Greeks some 2500 years after his death as not only a great man, but as a god who owed his great powers to the knowledge of medicine which he possessed, and who brought the art of healing to mankind.
The constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer is in Greek myth and tells about the Greek God of Medicine Aesclepius who, while in the process of bringing Orion The Hunter back to life following an accident, was struck and killed by a thunderbolt hurled at him by Zeus, God of the Sky and Earth.
The brother of Zeus was Hades, God of the Dead. He was afraid that the great skill of Aesclepius in bringing dead people back to life might put him out of work. So he played the blood is thicker than water card on Zeus, and Zeus complied and dealt the death blow. To honor Aesclepius (so the story goes), Zeus set him in the sky and gave him the Greek name "Ophiuchus."(The Serpent Bearer).
You probably already know that the man/god Thoth was adopted by the Greeks as their god Hermes. A similar thing happened to Aesclepius as a Greek deity whose attributes were nearly identical to those of the Egyptian I-Em-Hetep (whose name translated means "He Who Cometh In Peace"). I-Em-Hetep was both, a contrived deity (man-made-god later) and a legitimate one, being the third member of the great triad of gods in Memphis, Egypt in or about 2900 B.C. where he probably lived as the previously mentioned Imhotep, a mortal man at a later date (27th Century B.C.).
Historically he was in actual fact attached to the priesthood of RA, the Sun God, becoming the chief minister of the second king of the Egyptian Third Dynasty, Djoser (also spelled "Zoser"and “Sozer”), for whom he set the first profound standard of excellence in step pyramid building, while acting as the Pharaoah’s Master Architect..
Today Aesclepius has become patron of physicians, being referred to throughout the world in alchemical, metaphysical, and mundane medical texts and treatises as the man who knew how to revive the dying and recently dead, using the blood or venom of a snake. As primitive medicine-men are associated with snake spirits, so Aesclepius is always mentioned in connection with the Cabir Telesphoros, his private daemon who is said to have dictated or inspired his medical prescriptions, and the "Serpent of Epidaurus," his personal/professional emblem.
Here daemon means inner genius, as it did until the Christian author Origen turned it into demon. Socrates got his inspirations from his daemon, his divine intuition, not from a demon. Epidaurus is the birthplace of Aesclepius and for centuries was a center of medicine and healing. It is famous now for its ancient open air theatre with 14,000 seats, (photos on the Web), and so cleverly constructed that people in any seat can still hear a whisper on the stage. This architectural skill apparently has vanished entirely with the invention of the microphone.
But note that the symbolic connection among physicians, divine inspiration, and snakes continues to survive in various places. The staff with the snake round it symbolizes knowledge applied with wisdom in the practice of medicine. You can see it on the backs of many ambulances, and part of its power to produce miracles is the reason for the shape of the dollar sign.
The serpent-staff has a long history of being connected with religious and occult miracles, making perhaps its most notable early appearance during Ancient Egyptian times in the Biblical battle between the Yahweh Staff of Aaron the Hebrew, and the Uraeus Staff of the Priests of the Egyptian Pharaoh.
Later, this same serpent-staff concept was adopted by the American Medical Association in its development of the symbol “Caduceus,” which looks something like a winged flagpole about which a pair of serpents is entwined. The yogis of course had it centuries before in their diagram of the serpentine energies of ida and pingala weaving around the subtle spine and causing the now famous seven chakras of the rainbow colors where they crossed. The two dragons of the Celtic sage Merlin, also weave around the World Pillar and end up face to face, one red and one white, the ultimate polarities that form everything in their interactions. Just like Yang and Yin.
A closer inspection of the constellation of Ophiuchus as a set of stars across the Belt of the Zodiac poses a Rorshach test -- is Ophiuchus holding a snake torn in two pieces or is he holding two-headed King snake, each head adorned with a crown? It all depends on how you connect the dots.
Throughout the miraculous exploits of Aesclepius, God of Medicine, and Imhotep, mortal-made-god, the common thread of essential primary teachings begins and ends with the Serpent of Wisdom and the Tree of Life, also sometimes called The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as in the Genesis versions of creation.
In many occult traditions the students meets sacred trees during guided meditation journeys. Sometimes in Celtic work they seem to be a pair of trees. One is on fire and is actually the spirit version of the other. The student must find his or her way between them as they take it in turns to be fiery or normal. The secret of doing this at exactly the right time in the transformations is in the pulse, or in the breath cycles, of the meditator.
Those little bits of trivia are to show you the possible importance of some of the connections of the 13th member of the Zodiac with our Egyptian friend Thoth and our Greek friend Hermes, whose teachings brought about the Renaissance. It is a fact of engineering that 12 equal spheres can be put around a central 13th so that they all touch each other. This is the 3D version of the 6 equal circles that can be put around another equal circle so they all touch each other. Try it with seven cents or dimes. Doing it rather than just reading it will make it real for you.
The seven circle diagram is used by magicians to create the true proportions of the Seal of Solomon and the Tree of Life…all the magickal runes and all the Kabbalah. It is a very potent symbol. The 12 spheres round a central sphere pulls in all the work of the Solar based 12 symbol Zodiac and the 13th one adds the enormous dimension of Lunar, feminine, magickal work.
Using systems based on the 13 signs produces a spiritual path, at the end of which you will be the 13th thing, the witness outside the 12 symbols, the witness of the 12 chakras of a fully enlightened human, if you wish to be. The totally healed wounded healer stands outside the Twelve Step program that healed him. The Druids and Celts had 12 signs of their mundane Zodiac, and a secret 13th sometimes called in translation, “The Weaver” the cosmic spider in the centre of the Web of Life.
In this mundane plane we often get hit with paradoxes. We find ourselves confronted with two totally opposed points of view and think that they cannot both be true. Like the twelve and thirteen membered Zodiacs. Ancient symbols representing this dilemma are the horizontal figure of eight, the lemniscate in the Tarot decks, and the rune Dagaz.
The Moebius strip is a mathematical example. Take a strip of paper. Turn one end through 180 degrees and tape it or stick it to the other. You now have a very special loop of paper. It has only one side, as you can prove by running a pencil down the center of the paper. You get back where you began without having to cross from one side to the other. By applying another dimension to the strip you have changed its properties. By doing magickal work it is possible to stand at the intersection point of the two opposing modalities, and by elevating the conscious up one dimension you will be able to see that there is a perspective from which both views have the same truth value.
We have gotten used to the 30 degrees per sign of the Zodiac and it makes us think, if we think about it at all that the Sun is in the 12 signs an equal amount of time. Well that isn’t so either. Here, plus or minus a day, depending on the year is the actual number of days it takes the Sun to pass through the various signs, including Ophiucus, the 13th
These are obviously not the tidy magazine horoscope dates. The starting point of the astrologer’s calculations is the Point of Aries, which is in the same place every year around March 21st. But nowadays it isn’t in Aries. The wobble of the Earth’s poles makes it apparently move across the background of stars as it changes the Pole Star every 26000 years or so.
This makes no difference to the way modern astrology works. They just call the Point of Aries by the name it had millennia ago, when it actually did appear in Aries. The zero from which they measure everything is still the Spring Equinox. Notice that the Sun is astronomically only in Scorpio for about 7 days, because Scorpio is a funny shape.
If you pull one of the free star-gazing programs off the Web you will be able to watch as the path of the Sun moves through the bottom of Scorpio and into a much bigger Ophiucus. It’s a wonderful time machine.
I tell my advanced students that their goal is to drop all the acquired stuff that clings to their conventional Zodiac birth sign. Eventually we will all be Ophiucians and independent of our pre-programmed current laws of life. We will be functioning with twelve working chakras, as a witness of the game of life, without identifying with any of it. Our center is not something that changes, like everything else in life. We could do worse than associate it with Ophiucus. Only the Self is Real. Only the Real is Eternal.
In spite of all these details Western astrology works well with the right astrologer, even though the data used is not now the same as the scientific data. We have to get used to this. The mind is a wonderful tool, and can weave useful webs from almost any data.
A wonderful example of this occurred during WWII when a group of Gurkhas, the savagely ferocious and faithful members of the British Indian Army, were dropped by parachute with their white officer, a lieutenant, into a place where Japanese soldiers were suspected to be operating. They were quickly noticed by the Japanese and though the Gurkhas won the combat with their dreaded kukris, they lost their white officer in the first exchange of fire.
They decided to take the sahib’s ID material back to base, but had no idea where it was in the Malayan jungle. One of them examined the dead sahib’s wallet and found a map. So off they went, knowing that their sahib was guiding them with his will and testament, so to speak.
Many days later they emerged from the jungle at the base from which they started. The commanding officer was stunned to see them all alive and well. “How the hell did you find your way back?” he demanded. “Sahib Evans had a map in his pocket,” said their spokesperson. The colonel knew that there were no maps of the jungle. He asked to see it. Lt. Evans had been a Londoner, and at the back of his little diary was a colored map of the London Underground Railway system. That was the map they used.
The current Zodiac may not be the “real” map, but it can still be used by those with the Gurkha’s attitude to achieve meaningful results.
Remember that on September 11, in a year not far away the whole nation had been ruthlessly and relentlessly focused on the number 911, by the media. The ‘randomly generated’ pick three lottery winner in NYC that day was 911. Maybe there are some dots here for contemplation. Something like, “What you think is what you see, and what you see is what you get.” It doesn’t all have to be written in the stars. We can write our own destiny. Suppose that the whole country had been focusing with the same intensity on a symbol of Peace. What might have happened? Any map can be made to work with the correct intensity of focus.