Figure 7.5 The widespread tradition of a God who changes the astrological Age, through the Precession of the Equinoxes: Top left, Mithras as Sol Invictus; top right, Mithras slaying the Age of Taurus; bottom left, Aion, God of Ages; and bottom right, Orphic God Phanes. Mithras slaying the Age of Taurus (photo by Tim Prevett courtesy of the Segontium Museum, 2005)
This article has been extracted from my 4th book Sacred Number and the Lords of Time as being a fairly self-contained read. The “great time” in the heading is the Precession of the Equinoxes or Great Year of Plato, in which god-like human figures are posited in ancient times as governing the Age named after the Zodiacal sign in which the sun sits at the spring equinox, today the age of Pisces is about to become the age of Aquarius, but the Current Era corresponds to the age of Pisces, inaugurated by the birth of Jesus, hence also called A.D. for “anno dominie” or “year of Our Lord”.
In this model of precession (figure 7.4), a north-south ring of ages, explains an enduring feature within at least some of the mysteries found in late antiquity. In Greco-Roman times some mystery cults presented their god within a vertical elliptical band upon which the zodiacal constellations were marked (see figure 7.5).4 these all represented a god who could command time and affect what happened upon the earth. the iconography of these gods and their associated myths reveals the many aspects of such a god’s powers and intruded upon many aspects of the religious iconography and mythology of the ancient world, as was demonstrated by the authors of Hamlet’s Mill.
The clear relationship to the zodiac, when shown in a vertical setting for such a god, suggests that the above model of precessional time had been developed and become widespread in the preceding thousand years. this precessional iconography showed an epoch-making and hence history-making godhead who could bend the everyday powers of Helios-Ra, the sun, by moving the equinoctial crossing points of the sun and affect the world by moving the ecliptic and displacing the stars relative to the framework of heaven. Perhaps the clearest presentation of such a precessional cult in late antiquity was that of mithras.5
The cult of Mithras gave the precessional god the name “of Persia”, as if from there. But he appears adapted from the Greek god Perseus, who rode the winged horse Pegasus and killed the Gorgon (of solar imagery) while rescuing Cassiopeia (held in chains as a sacrifice to a sea monster). This cult took as its main image the Tauroctony, a tableau in which a youthful Mithras, in his signature Phrygian cap and cape, is killing a bull while looking away.
In the tableau above, Mithras has two important attendants to right and left. both have their legs crossed indicating the points of crossing for the sun on the celestial equator and each carrying a torch that represents the movement of the sun at each of these equinoxes (see figure 7.6). on the right side the figure, Cautes, represents the spring equinox, with the sun torch pointing upward to how that the summer lies ahead. The light of Cautes’ torch is shown touching he mouth of the bull of Taurus, indicating the scene takes place at the spring equinox. on the left side we find Cautopates, the fall equinox, whose torch is pointing downward to the left indicating the winter to come. at the feet of Mithras is the Scorpion (the constellation of Scorpio) and serpent carrier Orpheuchus, both diametrically opposite the constellation of Perseus in the sky.
In the constellation of Perseus, we find Perseus holding the Medusa’s
head (the variable star Algol), which is iconic of the sun in Taurus at the spring equinox being cut off by the precessional god who stands above Aries, the new world age. Perseus is therefore part of the vertical colure or meridian of that age, presented upon the celestial earth of the stars. Such stellar iconography developed without sculpture or scriptural myths, since the night sky and its named constellations could illustrate the story.
The well-educated Jesus stood at the end of a dying age. Within the walls of a new temple mount, he was aware that the Jewish people were expecting a new dispensation and also that the mystery sects, popular with the Greeks, Romans, and Jews, were actually religious remnants of an astronomical fact, that the equinoctial sun had moved on before and was moving now from Aries to Pisces. Within four centuries the Roman empire would be declared Christian, but this would involve a Christianity quite unlike the early church, a Jesus quite unlike the original person, and a Christian scripture quite unlike those that circulated among early Christians. Where Mithras, aeon, Phanes, and Sol Invictus had once stood, Jesus would come to stand, as “Christ in majesty,” shown with the same precessional iconography that once accompanied the earlier precessional deities.
On later icons Jesus was depicted as Lord of the World, the Pantocrator or cosmocrator (see figure 7.8). He was shown on a majestic throne, usually with his feet on an orb representing the earth, within a vesica pisces (instead of the elliptical of mystery cult iconography) and surrounded by the evangelists, these being openly associated with the fixed signs of the zodiac: Aquarius (the man), Leo (the Lion), Taurus (the ox), and Scorpio as an eagle.* Jesus came to be known in the early church as the fish because the Greek for fish ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys) is an acronym for Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ, (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” this iconic acronym was compatible with his being the Lord of the age of Pisces and a fisher of men. his mother was represented, within the first three gospels, as the constellation opposite to Pisces, Virgo the Virgin. “the Virgin” was a common motif within Greek myths of parthenogenesis (παρθένος, parthenos, meaning “virgin,” and γένεσις, genesis, meaning “birth”), applied when a god gives birth to a hero through a mortal woman or as when Athena emerged from the head of Zeus.
There needed to be sufficient cosmological compatibility for an agreed form of Christianity to be accepted by the adherents of the other important mystery schools as the single religion of Rome. Thus Jesus came to be born on Mithras’s birthday of December 25th, three days after the winter solstice. This must have reassured the initiates of the Mithraic mysteries, many of whom were Roman legionnaires or other people of position in the Roman empire. Many other signature features of Mithras were incorporated into Jesus as well, such as the virgin birth, his death at the age of thirty-three, and so on, so as to make him recognizable as a precessional hero, something not widely recognized today.
extracted from Sacred Number and the Lords of Time, chapter 7: From Egypt to Jesus pp 182-187 by Richard Heath (Inner Traditions 2014), available worldwide – see top right sidebar.