Monday, April 18, 2016

Crux in the 3rd Millennium (Michael Hoskin)

Some Beaker pots, more it seems from southerly latitudes, had a cross on the bottom, usually interpreted to be sun rays or maybe a wheel.  There is sometimes also instead a cross that is more sun-like corona or solar blazing.  Regarding the general pot decoration, it's probable that Beaker funerary pots were making references to the sun (makes sense for people buried facing the sunrise).

The ale of these pots could have been gruited with henbane (the herb of the sun god) as in much of Europe during the Bronze and Iron Age.  (At least one Spanish beaker has been shown to contain this substance)  It may have been the over-gruiting of henbane that caused berserkergang, where Iron Age Scandinavian warriors stripped off their clothes and became like wolves, boars or werewolves, panting and foaming at the mouth, furious like the god himself.  The nudity of Celtic warriors in battle could be another ancient reference to this battlefield, performance-enhancing drug.

I'll continue now, for your consideration, to throw a few more items into the cosmological stew of Beaker mythology.  The idea here is more or less to put the pieces of their material culture in a particular context.  As I've said before, using the beliefs of proto-historic and modern Europeans is a sufficient and plausible starting point IMO, especially since the underlying metaphysical worldview and genetics of Western Europe has changed little since the Early Bronze Age, at least its constituents.

In the previous post on the Beaker settlement of Son Oleza and its Son Mas Sanctuary of the Balearic Islands, I became interested in the interpretation of an astroarchaeologist, Michael Hoskin, who looked through the viewing stone to the saddle between two mountains.  From the rear sight post to the saddle, he envisioned a spectacular prehistoric object of Bell Beaker attention, Crux.

The Southern Cross in 2,000 B.C. through the Siting Stone of Son Mas (Time Team)
A good place to start is with Hoskins in his own words..
The video is embedded to the exact location where Michael Hoskin explains his reasoning.  The image of the sighting stone can also be found at 25:39.

The constellation of Crux (the Southern Cross) was slowly setting on Europe in the third millennium and in the procession of the constellations, Crux slowly slipped beneath the horizon year by year.  It was visible at the beginning of the third millennium from Stonehenge, although the star Acrux had already disappeared; and within the first millennium it would have disappeared from almost all of Europe.

Stonehenge itself, BTW, appears to have had a long runway oriented towards Crux. (Ruggles, pg 345)  Wayland's Smithy is also hypothesized to have had Crux aligned 'windows'. (North, page 38)

From a mythological standpoint, this is an interesting twist given Crux's association with a dying sun, descent into the underworld, and the sun's rebirth or resurrection.  In most of Iron Age Europe, the end of the calendar year was followed by an unregulated period during which the Saturnelia festival and the Winter Solstice occurred, representing the death of the sun and the current order.  Remnants of this persist in the names of days in the English week, with the week being born on Sun-day and the death of the week on Saturn's-day.

The waning solar year brings shorter and shorter days until finally the Winter Solstice arrives (being Latin for 'sun-stopped').  It's at this time that the Sun dwelled in cross for 2-3 days before being 'reborn' right around Christmas, to which the days begin increasing.

Cross Symbol Gold Foil from Britain (British Museum, order FI-000820937)

I've speculated a little about what descent into the underworld might have looked like for a people native to a certain geology [here].  In many ways, this belief is somewhat similar to Egyptian religion in that the dead are transported via a solar barque [here] and [here] via the Southern Cross (to which Egyptian pyramids are oriented). 

See also [here]


Michael Hoskin [here]

1 comment:

  1. This is a short film test mapping the carving of a sun cross oval on the St Dogmaels Bluestone carving (traced directly from the stone) over various other sun crosses and other shapes to sample hits and misses on a 9:10 oval with flattened quarter edge This is all connected to looking at the legends surrounding the cauldron in The Mabinogion if you're interested.