Origins of the Zodiac Signs – The Path of the Moon – KASKAL dร™ล U ๐’†œ๐’€ญ๐’Œ

The Origins of the Zodiac Signs Begin in Mesopotamia

The astrology we know and love originated in ancient Mesopotamia, and we have the Sumerians to thank for the origins of the zodiac signs.

The oldest astrological records we have belong to the Sumerians, dating back at least to 3100 BCE. However, similarities between the Sumerian and Babylonian constellations and the reliefs found at Göbekli Tepe suggest the meanings of the constellations may predate Sumerian culture by another 7,000 years, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Sumerian documents contain the oldest human writing system, cuneiform. These cuneiform texts hold the oldest known astrological information on the planet.

Sumerian obsession with time

The Sumerians paid close attention to the sky and the seasons. They seemed to be obsessed with understanding time. Sumerian calendrical systems were primarily lunar, but included solar tabulations, as well.

The 30-day lunar month reigned supreme, as did the Sumerian god of the Moon, Nanna (𒀭𒋀𒆠 dŠEŠ.KI). Behind them was the seasonal solar calendar and the sun god, Utu (𒀭𒌓 dUTU) .

When the cycles of the sun, and the rising and setting of the stars and planets aligned with lunar time, it was considered fortuitous. When they acted out of turn, it was a bad sign.

Sumerian Astrology Lived On

As the millennia progressed, and the Sumerian people and culture were overshadowed by the Akkadian empire, much of Sumerian knowledge, including myth, legend, and astrological omens remained a prominent feature in the ancient Near East through the Late Babylonian period. Sumerian documents were copied and transcribed into Akkadian, which is how scholars were able to decipher their cuneiform tablets.

Until quite recently, astrology and astronomy were considered the same science. It’s no wonder the Sumerians took such great care to record the movements of the heavens and the affects they had on the world. 

These astrological omens were re-recorded over thousands of years by the skilled hands of priests and scribes, well into the late Babylonian period. Along the way, they gave us astronomical terms still in use today, such as spheres, orbits, ecliptic, inclination, and poles.

Origins of the Zodiac Signs on the Path of the Moon
Akkadian cylinder seal dating to c. 2300 BC, depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, Enki, and Isimud By Version 1 Version 2, Public Domain

Babylonian Astrology Becomes Canon

The most well-known compilation of such omena is Enuma Anu Enlil (𒌓𒀭𒈾𒀭𒂗𒆤𒇲 U4.AN.NA dEN.LÍL.LÁ); literally, When Anu and Enlíl…; or EAE for short.

It includes 68-70 cuneiform tablets with anywhere from 6,500 to 7,000 omens, which became the hallmark of Babylonian astrology.

It’s believed to have been compiled in its canonical form between 1595-1157 BCE, during the Kassite period. However, evidence suggests earlier versions dated back to the Old Babylonian period, around 1950-1595 BCE.

Origins of the Zodiac Signs on the Path of the Moon, Sumerian Grammar, Sumerian Language, Online Sumerian Lessons
Enuma Anu Enlil (Tablet 50) © The Trustees of the British Museum

Another well-known astrological catalogue was  MUL.APIN 𒀯𒀳; literally, the Plow Star, or Plow Constellation. It’s primarily concerned with 66 stars and constellations, and their rising, setting, and culmination dates.

The canonical text has been dated to 1000 BCE, but like other Babylonian astrological texts, they are likely the remnants of a much older Sumerian astrological tradition. In fact, the 18 constellations in the prominent Path of the Moon (KASKAL dÙŠU 𒆜𒀭𒌍) are the original constellations of the elder Sumerian zodiac.

The Origins of the Zodiac Signs

The original sidereal zodiac contained 18 constellations:

  1. MULMUL: 𒀯𒀯 Many Stars/Star Cluster—the Pleiades (in Taurus)
  2. MULGU4.AN.NA: 𒀯𒄞𒀭𒈾 Bull of Heaven—Taurus
  3. MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA: 𒀯𒉺𒇻𒍣𒀭𒈾 True Shepherd of Anu—Orion
  4. MULŠU.GI: 𒀯𒋗𒄀 Old Man/Enmešarra—Perseus
  5. MULGÀM/MULZUBI: 𒀯𒆛/𒀯𒉽𒈿 Shepherd’s Crook—Auriga
  6. MULMAŠ.TAB.BA(GAL.GAL): 𒀯𒈦𒋰𒁀(𒃲𒃲) (Great) Twins (Lugalirra and Meslamta’ea)—Gemini
  7. MULAL.LUL: 𒀯𒀠𒈜 Deceptive Digger—Cancer
  8. MULUR.GU.LA/MULUR.MAḪ: 𒀯𒌨𒄖𒆷/ 𒀯𒌨𒈤 Great Carnivore/Exalted Lion—Leo
  9. MULAB.SÍN/MULÀBSIN: 𒀯𒀊𒉆/𒀯𒀳 Furrow—Virgo
  10. MULZI.BA.AN.NA: 𒀯𒍣𒁀𒀭𒈾 and MULĜIŠ.ÉRIN: 𒀯𒄑𒂟  Scales—Libra and lower part of Virgo
  11. MULĜÍR.TAB: 𒀯𒄈𒋰 Scorpion—Scorpius and Legs of Ophiuchus
  12. MULPA.BIL.SAĜ: 𒀯𒉺𒉋𒊕 Pabilsag (Ninurta)—Sagittarius
  13. MULSUḪUR.MÁŠ(KU6): 𒀯𒋦𒈧(𒄩) Goat-Fish—Capricorn
  14. MULGU.LA: 𒀯𒄖𒆷 Great One (Enki/Ea)—Aquarius
  15. MULKUNMEŠ  𒀯𒆲𒎌  and MULZIBME: 𒀯𒍦𒈨 The Tails of the Great Swallow—Western Fish of Pisces
  16. MULSIM.MAḪ:  𒀯𒉆𒈤 The Great Swallow (Southwest Pisces, Epsilon, Pegasi)
  17. MULA.NU.NI.TUM: 𒀯𒀀𒉡𒉌𒌈 and MULLU.LIM: 𒀯𒇻𒅆 Anunitum—(Northeast Pisces, Andromeda)
  18. MULLÚ.ḪUĜ.ĜÁ: 𒀯𒇽𒂠𒂷 Hired Man—Aries, Triangulum and the Head of Cetus

Over time, the 18 constellations were reduced to the 12 zodiac signs you’re probably familiar with. The 12 Babylonian zodiac signs were adopted by the Greeks, and transmitted into India via trade routs.

Sumerian and Babylonian Astrology in Practice

The Mesopotamians believed the constellations were images of the gods, while the the wandering stars, or planets, which included the Moon and Sun, embodied the gods.

Celestial interactions were seen as messages and instructions from the gods.

For the most part, the gods of the planets in Babylon were synonymous with their Sumerian counterparts, which the exception of Mercury and Jupiter.

The deity each planet, star, and constellation represented, varied by time and culture. Generally speaking, the Sumerian gods embodied in the planets were:

Sumerian/Babylonian Gods of the Moon, Sun, and Planets

  1. Sun: dUTU 𒀭𒌓 Utu/Šamaš—God of Justice
  2. Mercury: dNIN.URTA 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒅁 Ninurta—Heroic God of Agriculture, Healing, Hunting, Scribes, Law, and War | dAG 𒀭𒀝 Nabû—God of Knowledge, Literacy, Rational Arts.
  3. Venus: dINANNA 𒀭𒈹 Inanna/Ištar—Goddess of Love, Beauty, Fertility, Sexuality, War
  4. Moon: dNANNA 𒀭𒋀𒆠 (dŠEŠ.KI)/dEN.ZU 𒀭𒂗𒍪 Nanna/Suen (alt. Sin)—God of Fertility, Blessings (Celestial Shepherd)
  5. Mars: dKIŠ.UNU(G.GAL) 𒀭𒄊𒀕(𒃲)/dÈR.RA 𒀭𒀴𒊏 Nergal/Erra—God of the War, Death, Pestilence, and the Underworld
  6. Jupiter: dEN.LÍL 𒀭𒂗𒆤 Enlil—God of the (non-celestial) Sky | dAMAR.UTU  𒀭𒀫𒌓 Marduk—Weather/Fertility God who became the head of the Babylonian Pantheon
  7. Saturn: DNIN.URTA 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒅁 Ninurta—Heroic God of Agriculture, Healing, Hunting, Scribes, Law, and War

The approach and arrival of planets in relation to each other and the constellations was watched and documented as though life and death depended on it.

Celestial movement was believed to bring life and death the land, the nation, and the king himself. Bad omens could be countered with apotropaic rituals; a practice which has remained alive in Hindu religion and culture.

Natal Astrology Was Not a Greek Invention

Contrary to what some scholars purport, Mesopotamian astrologers were practicing mundane natal astrology. For example, Hittite texts outline the natal prognoses of children born in each month. Der Alte Orient, J. Friedman (1925) And the Babylonians had numerous natal horoscopes based on birth date and time.

Additionally, divinations of all sorts, especially liver divinations, were common in Sumer. Omena traditions continued throughout the Near East well into the common era, and there’s no reason to think that astrological divinations weren’t just as commonplace, and just as common in use in daily Sumerian life.

The Greek Usurpation of Babylonian Astrology

Not surprisingly, Babylonian astrology became popular among the Greeks, and many changes were made in Hellenistic times. One of the biggest changes was the creation and implementation of the Greek element-modality system, which associated each of the 12 zodiac signs with one of the four classical elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. It also associated them with a modus operandi of either Cardinal, Mutable, or Fixed.

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Another Greek invention was the planetary-rulership system, which usurped the original divine associations of the constellations, by randomly assigning them luminaries and planets, which they felt fit their alchemic schemes.

Greek changes to the astrology of the ancient Near East became so commonplace, that the modern practitioner of astrology—including Vedic astrology or Jyotisha—is barely aware of its ancient Babylonian and Sumerian origins.

Origins of the Zodiac Signs Summary

Origins of the zodiac signs are rooted in the 18 Sumerian constellations known as the Path of the Moon and were reduced to 12 major Babylonian zodiac signs. The astrology of Mesopotamia was adopted and altered by the Greeks, and transmitted to India. Classical Greek astrological associations remain prevalent in Vedic astrology or Jyotisha.

Discover the Secrets of the Original Zodiac Signs

Astrology played a vital role in Sumerian spirituality and culture. They devoted much of their time to studying the heavens. Their collective wisdom can be yours.

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