MUL.MUL 𒀯𒀯 The Star Cluster—the Pleiades

MUL.MUL 𒀯𒀯 The Star Cluster—the Pleiades

Part two of the Path of the Moon Series

NOTE: This is Part 2 of my Path of the Moon series, which details the origins of the Zodiac—namely, the 18 constellations of the original Sumerian Zodiac, which eventually became the 12 constellations of the Babylonian Zodiac.

I’ll be relying heavily on two translations of the Epic of Erra throughout, which are a part of two different compilations of Mesopotamian myth and literature. Of the two, I prefer Benjimin R. Foster’s From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia, which you can get from Amazon at this link.

The first constellation listed in MUL.APIN is MULMUL 𒀯𒀯—The Star Cluster, now the Pleiades. Babylonian omens concerning MULMUL are almost always sinister, but in this article, I’ll’ demonstrate how the negativity surrounding the Star Cluster has little to do with the Pleiades’ true astrological effects, and everything to do with humanity’s cataclysmic past.

The Pleiades in Astronomy

The Pleiades is one of the nearest star clusters, nearly 450 light years away. It’s comprised of mostly hot, blue, middle-aged, B-type stars.

Officially, the oldest known depiction of the Pleiades is found on an artifact known as the Nebra Sky Disk, which has been dated to 1800-1600 BCE. However, it’s obvious to any causal stargazer that an image of the Pleiades exists among the cave paintings in the Hall of Bulls in Lascaux, France.

It not only depicts the Star Cluster just above the shoulder of the bull—imagery identical to that found in Mesopotamian descriptions—but also, the Sun approaching the horns of the bull—a placement which would have been visible in the spring skies more than 10,000 years ago.

What the Pleiades meant to the people who created the cave art in Lascaux we’ll never know. But we do know what it meant in more recent antiquity.

Pasztor, Emilia. (2011). Prehistoric astronomers? Ancient knowledge created by modern myth. Journal of Cosmology.
Image Courtesy of Pasztor, Emilia. (2011). Prehistoric astronomers? Ancient knowledge created by modern myth. Journal of Cosmology.

The Meaning of MUL 𒀯

The word 𒀯 MUL in Sumerian means star, but it’s often used as a determinative—a word or syllable prefixed or suffixed to a noun to indicate classification. In this case, MUL is prefixed (transcribed in superscript and left unpronounced) to indicate the following noun is a celestial body.

For example, the constellation UR.GU.LA—the Exalted Lion, or Leo, was written MULUR.GU.LA. However, in the case of the Star Cluster, MUL isn’t a silent determinative prefix.

Plurality in Sumerian

There are a number of ways to create plurals in Sumerian. One of them is to duplicate the noun. For example, the word lugal means king, whereas lugal-lugal means kings, and sometimes all [of the] kings.

In the case of the Star Cluster, MUL.MUL becomes stars; literally, star-star. If you’re wondering whether MUL.MUL could be translated as all [of the] stars, the answer is ‘yes’. But we know from the context that MUL.MUL in MUL.APIN refers to the Pleiades.

MUL.MUL 𒀯𒀯—Akkadian “Zappu”

In Akkadian, the cuneiform MUL.MUL 𒀯𒀯 is read zappu, and translates as bristle, comb, or tuft [of hair]. This is almost certainly a dual reference to the bristly nature of the deities associated with the Star Cluster, the Sebitti, as well as the coarse tuft of hair that grows on the neck or shoulder of some bovines.

The Seven Sebitti

Regional variations of the word Sebitti—sometimes Sebittu—are usually translated as the [group of] Seven. In some myths, the seven Sebitti are monsters. In others, they attend to the God of War, Nergal (dKIŠ.UNU.GAL 𒀭𒄊𒀕𒃲), or Erra (dÈR.RA 𒀭𒀴𒊏) in Babylon—the deity embodied in the red planet Mars. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Mars and the Pleiades were intimately connected in Babylonian omena tradition.

In fact, SAA 08 050 o7 assures us:

[MUL.MUL MUL]ṣal-bat-a-nu

The Pleiades are Mars.

Unlike much of Mesopotamian astronomical language, this text is clear. To understand the astrological effects of the Pleiades, you need only understand those of Nergal-Erra and his planetary incarnation. To understand both, we need look no further than the Epic of Erra.

The Seven Warriors of the Erra Epic

In Sumer (𒆠𒂗𒄀𒊏 KI.EN.GI.RA), the God of war, death, and pestilence was Nergal, and he was synonymous with the Babylonian Erra.

More than 36 copies of šar gimir dadmē—also known as Erra and Išum, the Erra Epic, and the Legend of Erra—have been found; more copies even than the Epic of Gilgamesh, signifying the importance this text played in Babylon.

While the tale describes mundane catastrophes such as military invasion and plague, the story is awash is apocalyptic language.

By Umbisaĝ - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62823336
Nergal (Erra). Image Courtesy of Umbisaĝ - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62823336
A Note on Translations

Unfortunately, of the five tablets that make up Išum and Erra, I only have full access to Tablet I (STT 1 016), so I can’t verify the translations of the other tablets myself. For this reason, I’ll be providing two different translations of the Erra Epic.

The first is from Benjamin R. Foster’s Distant Days: Myths, Tales and Poetry from Ancient Mesopotamia (Bethesda, MD. CDL, 1995 p. 133-163), which I will preface with {Foster}. The second is from Stephanie Dalley’s Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford, NY 1989 9. 285-312), which I will cite as {Dalley}.

I may throw one or two of my own translations in, which are far more literal than what most English speakers will be used to. They will be cited under: {Quinn}.

I’m providing multiple translations but because they can differ greatly between scholars, and I want to leave little room for debate as far as the true meaning of the text is concerned.

The Prominence of the Sebitti in šar gimir dadmē

It’s no coincidence that šar gimir dadmē, like MUL.APIN and many other astrological documents, begins with a description of the Pleiades—or in this case, their personification, the Seven Warriors; the Sebitti who are described as follows:

{Foster} The Seven, warriors unrivaled, their divine nature is different. Their origins are strange, they are terrifying. Whoever sees them is numbed with fear. Their breath of life is death. People are too frightened to approach!

{Dalley} Different is the divine nature of the Sebitti, unrivalled warrior; Their birth was strange and full of terrible portents. Anyone who sees them is smitten with terror, for their breath is lethal; people are petrified and cannot approach them.

OBSERVATION: As you can see, while both of the above translations use the same source text, they are rendered differently in English: one uses “origins,” the other “uses birth,” etc.

Apocalyptic Imagery

The text continues, illustrating the creation and nature of the Seven Sebitti. It’s worth noting that it is Anu, the supreme god of the celestial sky and cosmos, who endows the Seven with their character.

{Foster} When Anu, king of the gods, sowed his seed in the Earth, she bore him seven gods. He called them the ‘Seven.’ He summoned the first to give his instructions: “Wherever you go and spread terror, have no equal.” He said to the second, “Burn like fire, scorch like flame.” He [commanded] the third, “Look like a lion. Let him who sees you be paralyzed with fear.” He said to the fourth, “Let a mountain collapse when you present your fierce arms.” To the fifth, he said, “Blast like the wind. Scan the circumference of the Earth.” The sixth, he enjoined, “Go out everywhere (like the deluge) and spare no one.” The seventh, he charged with viperous venom, “Slay whatever lives.”

ASTROLOGY NOTE: The Sumerian sky god An (dAN 𒀭𒀭)—Anu in Babylon—ruled over the stars, constellations, and the heavens, and was credited with assigning an individual’s destiny since Sumerian times; a fact selectively ignored by scholars who prefer to credit the Babylonians with the creation of natal and predictive astrology.

Similarities to the Book of Revelation

Readers familiar with the New Testament Book of Revelation will immediately recognize the theme of an apocalyptic seven: seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven heads of the beast, seven plagues, seven angels of wrath, et cetera. Entire books can and have been written on the topic of Mesopotamian myth and literature being precursors for Biblical accounts and prose.

Suffice to say, the idea of seven terrible things, past and future, is at least as old as Sumerian myth and literature, but probably goes back to the end of the Late Pleistocene period, circa 11,500 years ago.

Those familiar with the end of this epoch may recognize the similarity between the description of the Seven Sebitti, in this text and in others, to a comet—in this case, a comet whose nucleus and tail “spread terror with no equal,” “burned like fire, scored like flame,” was crowned with the fiery mane of “a lion,” “paralyzed those who saw it with fear,” “collapsed mountains,” “blasted like the wind,” “scanned the circumference of the Earth,” “like the deluge, spared no one,” and with toxic fumes, dust, and debris, or “viperous venom,” “slayed whatever lived.”

By Matthias Gerung - Ottheinrich-Bibel, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 8010, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6185964
Seven Bowls of Wrath. Image Courtesy of Matthias Gerung - Ottheinrich-Bibel, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 8010, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6185964
Death by Divine Decree

While it’s Anu who assigns to the Seven their destructive natures, their violence can only be unleashed at the behest of Erra, the God of War.

{Foster} After Anu had ordained destinies for all of the Seven, he gave those very ones to Erra, warrior of the gods, saying, “Let them go beside you. When the clamor of human habitations becomes noisome to you, and you resolve to wreak destruction; to massacre the black-headed folk [the Mesopotamian people] and fell the livestock, let these be your fierce weaponry. Let them go beside you.”

HISTORICAL NOTE: Stories of global cataclysms exist in nearly all cultures, in all parts of the world, in some form or another (which I recommend getting familiar with via Graham Hancock’s book, Fingerprints of the Gods). In some versions, humanity’s wickedness or arrogance becomes displeasing to the god or gods, who decide to use cosmic impacts or natural disasters to rectify the situation. In the case of the Mesopotamian myths, the world is destroyed, not because people are wicked, but because they are noisy.

An Appeal to Violence

But Erra wasn’t in the mood for battle, at least not at first. It took some coaxing to get the God of War into a murderous state, and the Sebitti did so by first deriding the war-god, then calling to his mind the pleasure and glory of battle.

{Dalley} They were indeed fierce, and their weapons rose up. They said to Erra, “Rise! Stand up! Why do you stay in town like a feeble old man? How can you stay at home like a lisping child? Are we to eat women’s bread, like one who has never marched onto the battlefield? Are we to be fearful and nervous as if we had no experience of war? To go onto the battlefield is as good as a festival for young men!”

After a litany of reasons why Erra should go to war, the Sebitti lament the long time since spilling blood themselves, revealing:

{Foster}] “We too, who know the mountain passes; we have [forgotten] how to go. Cobwebs are spun over our field gear. Our fine bow resists and is too strong for us. The tip of our sharp arrow is bent out of true. Our blade is corroded for want of a slaughter!”

Clearly, some time had passed since the Sebitti had been involved in any natural disasters.

Erra as the Destructive Power of Nature

Stirred by the Seven, Erra describes himself and his motives as follows:

{Foster} “I am the Wild Bull in heaven. I am the lion on earth. I am king in the land. I am the fiercest among the gods. I am warrior among the Igigi-gods. Mighty one among the Anunna-gods! I am the smiter of wild beasts. Battering ram against the mountain. The blaze in the reed thicket. The broad blade against the rushes. I am banner for the march. I blast like the wind. I thunder like the storm. Like the sun, I scan the circumference of the world. I am the wild ram striding forth in the steppe. I invade the range and take up my dwelling in the fold.”

{Dalley} “In heaven I am a wild bull, on Earth, I am a lion. In the country, I am king. Among the gods, I am fierce. Among the Igigi, I am warrior, among the Anunnaki I am powerful. Among the cattle, I am the smiter. In the mountains, I am the wild ram. In the reed-thicket, I am Gerra, in the grove I am the magšaru-axe. In the course of a campaign, I am the standard. I blow like the wind, I rumble like Adad, I can see the rim of everything like Šamaš. I go out onto the battlefield, and I am a wild sheep. I go into the sheepfolds, and I make my dwelling there.”

Cosmic Code—Astronomy-Astrology in Mesopotamian Texts

Since Sumerian times, multiple meanings were embedded within Mesopotamian texts, and the Epic of Erra is no different. Any good Babylonian astrologer will immediately recognize the following in the above text:

  • the Wild Bull as a direct reference to the constellation of Taurus
  • the Wild Sheep as the planet Mars (although it can also refer to Saturn or Mercury)
  • and the Sheepfold as both the Halo of the Moon, or the celestial sphere

In other words, whatever else šar gimir dadmē may be, it is also an astronomical record.

Constellations as Images of the Gods

Another thing to bear in mind, is that while the planets and stars were the celestial personification of the gods, the constellations were explicitly referred to as images of the gods.

Enuma Eliš V 1-2 explains that Marduk (dAMAR.UTU), who by 1100 BCE had risen to the head of the Babylonian pantheon, created the constellations in the likenesses or of the gods—in other words, as images of the gods.

ú-ba-áš-šim ma-an-za-za an DIĜIR.DIĜIR GAL.GAL

MUL-MEŠ tam-šil-šu-n[u lu-ma-š]i uš-zi-iz

 

[Quinn] created the stations for the great gods;

the stars—their images—as constellations, he caused [them] to stand.

Luminosity as a Predictor of Events

As we go forward, bear in mind that many Babylonian astrological omens were based on luminosity. Generally speaking, the faintness of a star, planet, or constellation was considered ominous, unless it related to Mars or his celestial objects. Conversely, brightness or radiance was considered a favorable portent; again, unless it related to Mars.

For example, SAA 08 029 states:

[1 MUL]. ⸢LUGAL⸣ šá-ru-ri na-ši

[LUGAL URI.KI] ga-me-ru-rú-uš

 

[If Re]gulus carries radiance:

[the king of Akkad] will exercise complete dominion.

Humanity Is Blamed for the Cataclysm

As it often happened in the ancient world, human arrogance and disobedience were blamed for the ensuing cataclysm. As Erra explained (but only after being riled up by the Seven):

{Foster} “All the gods are afraid of a fight, so the black-headed folk are contemptuous! As for me, since they did not fear my name, and have disregarded Marduk’s command so he may act according to his wishes, I will make Marduk angry—stir him from his dwelling, and lay waste to the people!”

In other words, Erra would usurp Marduk’s reign for his own good.

Planetary Disturbance and the Deluge

In the lines that follow, Erra, whom you’ll recall is synonymous with the planet Mars, has an exchange with Marduk, the deity embodied in the planet Jupiter. As I demonstrated earlier, this, like many other Mesopotamian texts, is an astrological record, among other things.

Thus, to help illustrate the astronomical nature of this text, I’ll now refer to these deities by their name and planet: Name-Planet.

Erra-Mars goes to Marduk-Jupiter, stands before him and asks:

{Foster} “Why has your precious image, symbol of your lordship, which was full of splendor as the stars of heaven, lost its brilliance? Your lordly diadem, which made the inner sanctum shine like the outside tower; (why was it) dimmed?”

{Dalley} “Why does the finery, your lordship’s adornment which is full of splendor like the stars of heaven, grow dirty? The crown of your lordship which made E-halanki shine like E-temen-anki—its surface is tarnished!”

A Clear Reference to Celestial Events

Many Assyriologists believe, in no small part due to its material description, that the symbol or image in question is an earthly object of worship, and that the inner sanctum and the tower are references to both the inner temple and the outside world. I find this strange, considering these same scholars don’t believe Erra-Mars or Marduk-Jupiter to be divine beings, let alone physical ones who use or wear material objects.

Either way, any Babylonian astrologer would immediately identify the astronomical references.

Here, the symbol which has lost its brilliance or has become dim may refer to either Marduk-Jupiter’s constellation, one of his fixed stars, or the planet Jupiter itself.

A Mars-Jupiter Conjunction

We’re told Erra-Mars “stands” before Marduk-Jupiter in his dwelling. We know from SAA 08 004 (o 14) and other astrological texts that:

[DIĜIR-MEŠ AN-e ina KI.GUB-šú-nu GUB-zu]

The Gods of the Sky will stand in their positions.

We also know from SAA 08 049 (r 7-8) that:

MUL.UDU.IDIM MUL.ṣal-bat-a-nu / im-taḫ-ḫar-ú-ma

iz-zi-zu ⸢ZI-ut⸣ LÚ.KÚR

 

If a planet and Mars confront each other and stand there:

attack of an enemy.

Consider SAA 08 288 (o 6) which explains:

MULṣal-bat-a-nu ana MUL.SAG.ME.GAR TE

mi-iq-ti dan-nu-ina KUR GÁL-ši

 

If Mars comes close to Jupiter:

there will be a severe miqtu-disease in the land.

As we’ll read in the Epic of Erra, absolute catastrophe occurred when Mars stood before Jupiter.

Jupiter Left Its Orbit

When confronted about his dim image and soiled crown, Marduk-Jupiter responded by saying:

{Foster} “Once long ago, indeed, I grew angry. Indeed, I left my dwelling place and caused the deluge/catastrophe. When I left my dwelling, the regulation of heaven and earth disintegrated. The shaking of heaven meant the positions of the heavenly bodies changed. Nor did I restore them.

{Dalley} A long time ago, when I was angry and rose up from my dwelling and arranged for the Flood, I rose up from my dwelling, and the control of heaven and earth was undone. The very heavens I made to tremble, the positions of the stars of heaven changed, and I did not return them to their places.

You read that correctly. According to the astronomical record passed down by the Mesopotamian people for millennia, not only did Jupiter change orbits, but its displacement caused the global deluge, and changed the position of the heavenly bodies, including the earth’s.

Not As Far-Fetched as You Might Think

If you’re not an astrophysicist, the idea of planetary displacement may seem far-fetched, but planets can and do change their orbits, as evidenced by the presence of our own moon which was captured by the Earth’s gravity at some point in the past. It would take no more than the close passing of another large planetary body—a rogue planet passing through our solar system, or even the close approach of another star—to disturb a planet’s orbit.

Regardless of the cause, the Babylonian record is clear: At some point in humanity’s memory, Jupiter left its orbit, caused a global flood, and disturbed the orbits of the other planets. And the Mesopotamians were far from the only people to record this cataclysmic event.

Worlds In Collision

In 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky published his paradigm-shattering book, Worlds in Collision, which detailed—and I do mean detailed—the similarities in cataclysm myths around the world. Among these were global floods and mass extinctions, which he hypothesized were caused by the approach of a large planetary body; namely Venus, which he proposes was ejected from the unstable brown dwarf, Jupiter—perhaps leaving the Great Red Spot in its wake.

Laugh if you want, but consider the apparently “new” surface and atmosphere of Venus, which scientists still can’t explain. Also, consider what appears to be electrical scouring on the surface of our Moon and Mars, which mainstream planetary impact models can’t yet account for, but which can be replicated in the lab using electrical and plasma discharges.

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The evidence for interplanetary discharge is vast, but ultimately unnecessary to outline in this article. Suffice to say, the idea of gods warring in the heavens and casting thunderbolts at one another is virtually ubiquitous in the human mythological record.

The Evidence Mounts

Like anyone who brings an alternative scientific theory into the mainstream, Velikovsky was met with great personal attack. But while they were quick to dismiss him and his theories, they were unable to debunk them outright. With each passing year, the evidence mounts in his favor.

In his 1955 follow-up to Worlds in Collision, Earth in Upheaval, Immanuel Velikovsky thoroughly documents the geological evidence of an extraterrestrial impact event which many now believe corresponds to the end of the Pleistocene and what is now being called the Younger Dryas Impact hypothesis.

The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis

Growing evidence suggests that the Earth experienced a cosmic impact between 13,000-11,000 YBP (years Before Present)—a period which happens to correspond to the Pleiades’ prominence in morning sky just above the eastern horizon on the Spring Equinox. And we know from ancient megalithic structures around the world that due east on the Spring Equinox played an important role in a striking number of ancient civilizations.

Image Courtesy: https://phys.org/news/2013-05-comprehensive-analysis-impact-spherules-theory.html

Geological evidence for the extraterrestrial impact theory includes a “black mat” layer of sediment found across Europe and North America, which contains impact materials such as nanodiamonds, melt glass, and metallic spherules, just to name a few.

Coronal Mass Ejection Theory

The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis entered the mainstream with Randall Carleson’s appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast a few years ago. Another controversial figure to appear as a guest was Dr. Robert Schock, who is probably best known for his work dating the Great Sphinx to more than 7,000 BCE based on water erosion in the temple enclosure, which you can read all about in his book, Origins of the Sphinx.

But Dr. Schock has a different take on the cause of the cataclysm which occurred 12,000 years ago. He suggests coronal mass ejection (CME) as the culprit as opposed to an extraterrestrial impact.

Personally, I believe the evidence for the impact hypothesis to be overwhelming, although I think Dr. Schock has the right idea, as electric or plasma discharge from closely passing planetary bodies would result in devastation identical to a CME.

Admittedly, I’m biased, as I’m prone to take ancient people at their word. While some of the descriptions of the nature of the Seven Sebitti could also describe a CME, they sound much more like the characteristics of a comet, asteroid, or cometary debris field than an earth-scorching solar flare.

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We find additional evidence of their cometary nature in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Sebitti in the Epic of Gilgamesh

Despite being the weapons of Erra, the Seven Sebitti are most widely known as the sons of Enmešarra (dEN.ME.ŠÁR.RA 𒀭𒂗𒈨𒊹𒊏); a primordial and underworld deity whose name translates as “Lord of All Me”—the ME being the divine decrees/powers/essences, or gifts of civilization. Enmešarra is listed separately in MUL.APIN, and will be discussed in a later article, so be sure to subscribe to my rare-but-awesome newsletter.

However, it bears mentioning that Enmešarra may have been a primordial precursor to Utu, the Sumerian God of the Sun and justice. This is relevant, as in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utu gives the Seven Sebitti—the same Seven Warriors of the later Erra Epic, to Gilgamesh, to help him navigate his way eastward through the mountains; not surprising, since the Pleiades have been used in navigation since time immemorial.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh (Brown), the Pleiades are described as follows:

NOTE: Where you see empty brackets, the text has been lost. Where you see text inside brackets, the text is predicted.

{Brown} Seven warriors they were, sons of one mother, These seven, the warrior, the young hero Utu, gave Gilgamesh:

The first, their eldest, has lion’s paw’s and eagle’s talons, The second is an open-mouthed cobra…, The third a Dragon Serpent hurling… The fourth spits fire… [the fifth]…. Can seize… The sixth, a torrent in spate that batters the [mountains], The seventh blasts like lightening none can deflect:

In the heavens they shine, on earth they know the paths, In the heavens they are stars blazing on high, On earth [they know] the road to Aratta, [Like] merchants they know the pathways, Like pigeons they know the nooks and crannies of the mountains: Through the mountain passes let them lead you.

Wile the above descriptions read like those of a comet, the association with the sun-god may demonstrate a dual nature which includes coronal mass ejection.

The Short-Lived Reign of Erra-Mars

Marduk-Jupiter follows his admission that his displacement caused the flood with:

{Foster} I built (another) house and settle therein. As to my precious image, which had been struck by the deluge that it appears well sullied, I commanded fire to make my feature shine and cleanse my apparel. When it had shined my precious image and completed the task, I donned my lordly diadem and returned. Haughty were my features; terrifying my glare! The survivors of the deluge saw what was done. Shall I raise my weapon and destroy the rest?”

Here, Marduk-Jupiter makes clear that:

  • after leaving his orbit, he settled into a new one
  • his image—be it a planet, star, or constellation—had been sullied or dimmed
  • that he made the image bright again after commanding fire
  • that he returned to his original station—either a location in a constellation, or planetary orbit
  • that after crowned and shining, he was terrifyingly bright
  • that survivors of the deluge witnessed it all
  • and that all of these things could happen again if he left his dwelling

NOTE: The figurative dimming of a planet or constellation could be caused by another planet in its “halo”, whereas literal dimming could be caused by the occultation of another planet or by debris passing between earth and the planet/constellation.

Marduk-Jupiter Leaves Mars in Charge

Immediately after the celestial history, we are reminded of the dual mundane nature of Marduk-Jupiter’s symbol. He laments that he cannot repair the material object as there are no sacred trees left to refurbish it—perhaps they went extinct with the other mega flora at the end of the Late Pleistocene.  

Erra-Mars then explains that he can provide Marduk-Jupiter with the necessary materials to restore his precious image. But Marduk-Jupiter, calling upon the imagery of his last displacement, provides him a terrifying reminder of what had taken place long ago.

{Foster} “(When) I rise [from] my dwelling, the regulation [of heaven and earth] will be disintegrated. The [waters] will rise and sweep over the lands. Bright [day will turn] to darkness. Whirlwind will rise and the stars of heaven will be [ ]. Ill winds will blow and the eyesight of the living creatures [will be darkened?]. Demons will rise up and seize [ ]. [They will…] the unarmed one who confronts them! The gods of hell will rise up and smite down living creatures. Who will keep them at bay ‘til I grind on my weaponry (once more)?”

But Erra-Mars assures him that he will “keep strong the regulation of heaven and earth” in his stead.

{Foster} He [Marduk] rose from his dwelling, an inaccessible place. He set out for the dwelling of the Anunna-gods. He entered that house and st[ood before them]. Shamash [the Sun God] looked upon him and let his protective radiance fall…. Sin [the Moon God], looked elsewhere, and did not [leave?] the netherworld. Ill winds rose and the bright daylight was turned to gloom. The clamor of the peoples throughout the land [was stilled]. The igigi-gods were terrified and went up to [heaven]. The Anunna-gods were [fright]ened and [went down] to the pit [of hell].

While Marduk-Jupiter makes his repairs, Erra-Mars stands outside the house (constellation or designated part of the sky), preventing any of the other gods from disrupting his work. When Marduk-Jupiter finishes, he orders the gods (planets) to return to their dwellings (orbits), including Erra-Mars, who isn’t happy with being unseated.

Erra-Mars Keeps His Word

In Tablet II, Marduk-Jupiter again leaves his orbit, and darkness falls over the Earth. But while the displacement terrifies the gods, something about Erra-Mars’ position prevents the whole of heaven and earth from being undone.

ASTROLOGY NOTE: One of the themes we see in the meanings of the Planet Mars and his other association is the quickness with which he experiences emotional injury, as well as how easy he is to manipulate by using his ego against him.

Erra-Mars Grows Bright

After being forced off the throne of heaven, we learn that the star of Erra (Mars or the Pleiades) “is shining bright and is radiant… of warfare. His awe-inspiring brilliance will… and all people will perish.”

This is a perfect example of the brightness of a planet, in this case Mars, acting as a portent of the future. As was usually the case in Babylon, when Mars was bright, Erra was unhappy and violence was at hand.

Here, Erra-Mars explains:

{Foster} “I give the command and despoil the sun of his protective radiance. By night, I muffle the face of the Moon. I say to the thunderstorm, “Hold back [your] young bulls! Brush aside the clouds. Cut off sn[ow and rain]! I will make Marduk and Ea mindful! He who waxed great in days of plenty, they bury him on a day of drought. He who came by water [they take him back] on dusty road.

This is a reminder that Erra-Mars is also the god of drought. But he goes on to remind us that not only is he a force of natural devastation, but he is capable of affecting the sea, and presumably causing marshlands to burst into flames.

{Foster} I obliterate [the land?] and reckon it for ruins. I lay waste cities and turn them into open spaces. I wreck mountains and fell their wildlife. I convulse the sea and destroy its increase. I bring the stillness of death upon swamp and thicket, burning life fire. I fell humankind. I leave no living creatures. Not one do I retain, [nor any?] for seed to [  ] the land. I spare no livestock, nor any living creatures.

Erra-Mars Leaves His Orbit

Erra-Mars makes good on his promise. He leaves his dwelling-orbit, and now in a fury, unleashes his weapons—the Seven Sebitti—on the world, levelling mountains, obliterating cities and forests, convulsing the seas, and causing massive wildfires.

As you read the following text, keep in mind that:

  • the earth passes through the debris field of a comet (2P/Encke) twice a year
  • this creates a phenomenon known as the Taurid Meteor Shower
  • the Taurid Meteor Shower’s radiant point (where it appears to originate) is in the constellation of Taurus
  • the Pleiades is a dominant feature in the constellation of Taurus

{Foster} The Seven, warriors unrivalled, fell in behind him. When the warriors reached the mountain Heha, he raised his hand. He destroyed the mountain. He reckoned the mountain Hehe as level ground. He cut away the trunks of the cedar forest. The thicket looked as if the deluge had passed over. He laid waste cities and turned them into open spaces. He obliterated mountains and slew their wildlife. He convulsed the sea and destroyed its increase. He brought the stillness of death upon swamp and thicket, burning life fire. He cursed the wildlife and it returned to clay.

If we take the ancients at their word, Mars’ transit of the Pleiades, most likely as the earth was passing through the Taurid meteor shower, resulted in a cosmic impact, albeit not as bad the one which had caused the previous deluge.

Things Get Back to Normal

But the carnage didn’t last. Tablet V states:

{Foster} “After Erra was calmed and took up his own abode, all the gods were gazing at his face. All the Igigi-gods and Anunna-gods stood in awe.”

After calming, Erra-Mars blesses Babylon, and all those who keep his legend close to their hearts.

In fact, Erra-Mars wasn’t a bad deity at all. He was a protector and a slayer of demons and enemies, among other things. We’ll talk more about Nergal-Erra and his planetary incarnation Mars in a future article, so be sure to subscribe!

The Pleiades in Other Forms

Sisters of the Seven Sebitti

Depending on the myth, the Sebitti had sisters. One of these was the oldest Elamite deity, Naruti (dNA.RU.TI 𒀭𒈾𒊒𒋾). A goddess of victory, she was worshiped alongside the Sebitti, and invoked to appease them. Like her brothers, she was beseeched for protection of the home, and from sickness and demons (as was Erra-Mars/Nergal). Her name appears in birth incantations with the Elamite Sun God Nahhunte.

Another sister of the Sebitti was Šuzianna (dŠU.ZI.AN.NA 𒀭𒋗𒍣𒀭𒈾). Depending on the text, she was the second wife of Enlíl, and the nurse of the Moon god Suen-Sin (Sumerian Nanna). While listed as one of the daughters of Enmešarra, she too, belonged to a divine group of seven; in this case, seven goddesses who helped Enki with the creation of humankind—a story we’ll discuss in detail in a later article.

Seven Mātṝkās

Mesopotamian mythology isn’t the only to boast a group of seven matronly birth goddesses. In Hinduism, the seven (sometimes eight) Mātṝkās are connected to the birth and protection of children. Like their male counterparts, the Sebitti, the Mātṝkās are fierce warriors. And just as the seven Sebitti are subject to the sun-god or war-god, the Mātṝkās aid the supreme goddess Durga as she battles the Asuras—a race of demons or demigods, most notable among them, the notorious buffalo demon, Mahishasura.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-34358519-O3.jpgGallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/244443 archive copy, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44761691
Image Courtesy http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-34358519-O3.jpgGallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/244443 archive copy, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44761691

The dual destructive-protective nature of these seven divine mothers, as well as their role as divine attendants, parallels the Sebitti in everything but their gender. It comes as no surprise that both the Sebitti and the Mātṝkās were seen as the Pleiades personified. And in case you didn’t make the connection, the Sebitti warriors were said to be “for the devouring of cattle”, while the Mātṝkās played a direct role in the defeat of the bovine demon Mahishasura.

I’d be remiss not to mention that the Hindu sun god Sūrya drives a chariot pulled by seven horses. These are only a fraction of the similarities between Mesopotamian and Indian mythology, which I can’t even begin to explore in this article, as I’d really like to move on to the next constellation in the MUL.APIN!

Pleiades in Folklore

Mesopotamian and Hindu mythology are only a small part of the picture. An exploration of Pleiades folklore yields a number of common themes: war, violence, demons, dragons, death, dance, and children.

By Robert Gendler - Robert Gendler, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106958936
Image Courtesy Robert Gendler - Robert Gendler, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106958936

To the Norse, the Pleiades were seven mother hens belonging to Freyja, another fierce warrior goddess. The idea of the Pleiades as hens can also be found in Hungarian and Thai myth. In the latter, the mother hen is burned over a fire, and after throwing themselves in after her, she and the chicks are immortalized as the seven stars.

In Ukrainian mythology, the Pleiades are dancing maidens who, upon their death, are transformed into water nymphs and placed in the sky. A similar tradition exists in Belarus, with the deceased maidens being synonymous with hens. On the other side of the world, the Wyandot people also view the Pleiades as seven maidens who dance and sing.

A Serbian myth sees them as seven golden-haired children, who were born to one of a pair of brothers that slayed a dragon. In another version, the seven stars are five sons of a dragon-woman, along with their sister and a human prince.

A Blackfoot legend describes the Pleiades as orphans, whom the Sun avenges by causing a drought. A Cherokee tale has theses seven boys ascending into the sky after running in a circle around a ceremonial ball court. In this version, only six boys make it to the heavens, as one is caught by his mother and falls to the ground—a clear reference to a falling star. Similar tales exist among the Iroquois, Onondaga, and Caddo, wherein the boys reach the sky with a magical song and dance.

By Frank Vincentz - Edited version of this photo File:Oberhausen - Gasometer - Nebra sky disk.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=117229202
Image Courtesy Frank Vincentz - Edited version of this photo File:Oberhausen - Gasometer - Nebra sky disk.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=117229202
The First Constellation

To the Navajo, the Pleiades were the first constellation placed in the sky. According to the legend, Black God wore the star cluster on his ankle. Every time he stamped his foot, the stars rose higher on his body; first, his knee, then his hip, then his shoulder, until finally, they came to rest on his head.

Considering global myth and legend, it should come as little surprise that the Star Cluster is the first constellation listed in MUL.APIN. Additionally, some of the oldest Lunar Mansion systems, such as the Nakshatra system of India, list the Pleiades foremost among the sectors of the sky.

While at first glance, the preeminence of the Pleiades in astronomical record seems innocuous enough. But when you consider that the Pleiades was last visible just above the horizon on the Spring Equinox around 6800 BCE (at the most recent), and was the dominant feature just above the horizon on around 9000 BCE, the antediluvian nature of the first constellation becomes evident.

MUL.MUL 𒀯𒀯—The Star Cluster—the Pleiades
Image of the sky 10000BCE, Lascaux France - Courtesy Stellarium Planetarium Software

The Pleiades in Astrology—Summary

The Pleiades is the oldest recognized “constellation” in the human record, and for good reason. It rose just before dawn in the spring skies at the end of the Late Pleistocene period, when the earth was likely devastated by a cosmic event, either in the form of a coronal mass ejection, close approach of another planetary body, a cosmic impact, or perhaps the passing of the earth through a cometary tail or debris field.

The association of the Pleiades and global catastrophe left an astrological impact on the star cluster, as well as its ruling planet-deity Mars-Erra/Nergal. Babylonian omena tradition associates the Pleiades and Mars with death, disease, and destruction.

However, a closer astrological analysis demonstrates that interactions with planets in the halo of the Pleiades can result in increased physical and mental energy, a desire for action, a nature of service, increase emotional and physical sensitivity, and an opportunity for new beginnings. Moreover, these same traits are present in the true astrological meaning of the constellation of Taurus, which we’ll discuss in the next article, so be sure to subscribe.

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Path of the Moon—Part Three—Taurus

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