The Phoenix Myth
We have shown earlier that Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars formed triangles in February of 6 BC which the Magi fused into a hexagram (below) and Christians venerate as the Star of Bethlehem. But what seems like a star in perfect perspective looks also like a stylized phoenix with a head and tail, two legs, and its wings spread wide, as it soars silently along the horizon – and is "burned" by the rays of the Sun!
1. Sources from Antiquity
One of the first descriptions of this legendary firebird is a sophisticated eyewitness-report by Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC) from Egypt, when the known world consisted of Europe, Asia and Libya (Africa):
"Egypt, though it borders upon Libya, is not a region abounding in wild animals. The animals that do exist also in the country, whether domesticated or otherwise, are all regarded as sacred. If I were to explain why they are consecrated to the several gods, I should be led to speak of religious matters, which I particularly shrink from mentioning; the points whereon I have touched slightly hitherto have all been introduced from sheer necessity.... "
His hesitation is understandable because Egypt had been conquered by the Persians in 525 BCE and their Achaemenid kings were reigning as pharaohs until 404. Most were Zoroastrians like the Magi, and Herodotus was also from Persia. Hence, he may have avoided "religious matters" by describing the colorful paintings of triangles as a bird:
"Otters also are found in the Nile, and are considered sacred. Only two sorts of fish are venerated, called the lepidotus and the eel. These are regarded as sacred to the Nile, as likewise among birds is the vulpanser, or fox-goose. They have also another sacred bird called the phoenix which I myself have never seen, except in pictures. Indeed it is a great rarity, even in Egypt, only coming there (according to the accounts of the people of Heliopolis) once in five hundred years, when the old phoenix dies. Its size and appearance, if it is like the pictures, are as follow: The plumage is partly red, partly golden, while the general make and size are almost exactly that of the eagle. They tell a story of what this bird does, which does not seem to me to be credible: that he comes all the way from Arabia, and brings the parent bird, all plastered over with myrrh, to the temple of the Sun, and there buries the body. In order to bring him, they say, he first forms a ball of myrrh as big as he finds that he can carry; then he hollows out the ball, and puts his parent inside, after which he covers over the opening with fresh myrrh, and the ball is then of exactly the same weight as at first; so he brings it to Egypt, plastered over as I have said, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun. Such is the story they tell of the doings of this bird...
Herodotus pairs two sacred birds, a culinary delicacy that was widely available, with a rare bird he only knows from pictures and doesn't find credible. As to whether the phoenix is a bird or an astronomical event, already its lifespan implies the latter. Herodotus supports it also with the colors, which match Mars, the red planet, and the partly golden Saturn and Jupiter. It flies from Arabia to Egypt, from the East to the West, which is the course of the planets as seen from Earth. That the phoenix comes all the way to Heliopolis, the Temple of the Sun, is also fitting because the three planets disappear in the rays of the Sun at the western horizon after forming the triangles. Even the shape of the phoenix, which is like an eagle's, matches the relative size of the planetary triangles. All this may actually explain why the largest triangles on earth, the pyramids of Giza, are right next to Heliopolis! Furthermore, it would make sense to depict three moving planets with a bird symbol because the signs of the Zodiac represent fixed stars.
If we think about it, and study the other reports of Herodotus, we learn that he relied on local priests. Yet contrary to later versions of the myth, this phoenix does not burn to ashes before it rises to new life, but carries its dead parent to Heliopolis! Hence, they could have interpreted the "fiery" triangle of the hexagram as the phoenix and the "watery" as the dead parent it takes along. On days when the Achaemenids were flying the standard of Cyrus the Great, Herodotus may have asked the Zoroastrians of Heliopolis if it is different from their winged "Farvahar" – and whether the three round balls reveal that it is the phoenix within a fiery triangle of planets?
2. The Riddle of the Phoenix
We propose therefore that Herodotus included an esoteric concept for Zoroastrians and Pythagoreans, which needs to be explained with the help of Plato and Plutarch. Our source is Hesiod, the celebrated "Greek father of didactic poetry" who lived a couple of centuries before Herodotus and was the first to mention the riddle, which would suggests it has a solution! He was active between 760-650 BCE and recorded most of what we know about Greek mythology, farming, economic thought, astronomy and ancient time-keeping. A versatile genius like Hesiod had obviously valuable insights that would have influenced the ambiguous report of Herodotus! Of the diverse translations of Hesiod's riddle we chose Bartleby.com, last accessed 10-26-2018:
A chattering crow lives out nine generations
of aged men, but a stag's life is four times a crow's,
and a raven’s life makes three stags old,
while the phoenix outlives nine ravens,
but we, the rich-haired Nymphs, daughters of Zeus
the aegis-holder, outlive ten phoenixes.
As far as we know, the riddle has never been solved because no one seems to have combined logic with morals and drama. It starts with the chattering of a crow and ends with a Greek chorus of bragging Nymphs, which is quite distracting! The noisy crow is apparently a challenge to find out how old 'aged men' would have been in Antiquity, and the number 60 comes to mind. But this would mean a crow can live for 540 years, which makes no sense although the number has been mentioned as a lifespan of the phoenix. Trying to figure out what else the "aged men" could mean leads to the most famous riddle of Antiquity: the riddle of the Sphinx. It is not the Sphinx of Giza, but the Sphinx of Thebes, a winged creature like the phoenix in Greek mythology. That both are of Egyptian origins and have riddles about old men is unlikely to be a coincidence! Hesiod makes a remark that reveals his familiarity with the riddle and its simple solution. But first the riddle:
The Sphinx sat on a high rock and guarded the entrance of Thebes. She asked each traveler the following question: "What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?" Then the Sphinx strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer the question, until Oedipus solved the riddle: "Man, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two feet as an adult, and with a cane in old age". Bested at last, the Sphinx threw herself from the rock to her death.
We can only speculate that Hesiod borrowed the old man from the sphinx as a crutch to solve the phoenix riddle, but it helps! That the span of an entire life can be reduced to "one" is difficult to accept today, even in a riddle, but the age of the crow would suddenly make sense. It could never live nine times longer than a man, but a total of nine years without a problem! We shall see next that an expert in such matters took the same approach.
The Greek scholar Plutarch (ca. 46-120 CE) was a contemporary of Tacitus, and of the writer of Matthew's Gospel about Christ's birth and the Magi. He was a celebrated biographer, a priest of the Pythian Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi and, according to his own account, "initiated in the secret mysteries of Dionysus" (Treatise 10). If anyone is able to shed some light on Hesiod's riddle, it would certainly be him. He concedes in "de defectu oraculorum" (Moralia) that the oracles have lost some of their power because people have changed. Following the style of Plato's 'Timaeus' he presents a lively discussion about the oracles and features Cleombrotus "who made many excursions in Egypt". He turns to Hesiod's riddle in chapter 11 to discuss why demigods don't have an eternal life and why "the Nymphs are mentioned there and included among the demons". He adds that "it is not entirely clear whether the doctrine of the demons originally derived from the Magi who are disciples of Zoroaster, from Orpheus, from the Egyptians, or from the Phrygians" . This is an important clue because Herodotus learned everything about the phoenix in Heliopolis yet "shrinks" from mentioning religious matters. This could mean that the myth had Zoroastrian origins, which gets indirect support from Ovid who points out in Metamorphoses (15:391) that the bird "which reproduces and renews it self" was named Phoenix by the Assyrians.
Plutarch deals with the phoenix in an esoteric way: He seems to have Cleombrutus represent his point of view and has him pretend that the riddle is only about the lifespan of nymphs. The phoenix is never discussed and most of Hesiod's numbers are ignored, which we add in red below to demonstrate that Cleombrotus will reach 9720 later with a different calculation, which is another important clue:
Nine generations long is the life of the crow and its cawing,
nine generations of vigorous men. The lives of four crows together
equal the life of a stag, and three stags the old age of a raven;
nine of the lives of the raven the life of the phoenix do equal,
ten of the phoenix we Nymphs, fair daughters of Zeus of the aegis."
However, because some of these numbers are needed to solve the riddle, Cleombrotus distracts Demetrius by featuring the nymphs: “Those that do not interpret 'generation' well make an immense total of this time; but it really means a year, so that the sum of the life of these divinities is nine thousand, seven hundred and twenty years, less than most mathematicians think, and more than Pindar (i. e. 522–443 BCE) has stated when he says that nymphs are 'allotted a term as long as the years of a tree' and for this reason he calls them Hamadryads.”
By quoting Pindar, who was from Thebes and a priest at the oracle in Delphi five centuries before Plutarch, Cleombrotus raises doubts that the nymphs can live as long as they are claiming, but he insists that "generation" means a year! Demetrius misses the point and asks: "How is it, Cleombrotus that you can say that the year has been called a generation?" Without waiting for a response, Demetrius suggests that Plutarch alters Hesiod’s riddle when he says that those who read ‘in their vigor’ make a generation 30 years, like Heraclitus… and those who write ‘in their eld’ (i.e. like Hesiod) ‘assign 108 years to a generation; for they say that 54 marks the limit of the middle years of human life, a number which is made up of the first number, the first two plane surfaces, two squares and two cubes, numbers which Plato also took in his 'Generations of the Soul’:
"1 + (1x2) + (1x3) +4 +9 + 8 + 27 = 54."
To add to the confusion, he mentions a ‘veiled reference’ by Hesiod that a conflagration could actually lead to a ‘disappearance of all liquids’ and ‘extinction of the nymphs’, which Cleombrotus ignores to continue his argument: "This fact is also clear... that often the measure and the things measured are called by the same name, as, for example, gill, quart, gallon, and bushel. In the same way, then, in which we call unity a number, being, as it is, the smallest number and the first; so the year, which we use as the first measure of a man's life, Hesiod has called by the same name as the thing measured, a 'generation'." On the other hand, Cleombrotus features the “qualities which may be inherent in numbers" instead of the numbers inherent in the riddle so that the claim of the nymphs that they outlive ten phoenixes is not needed:
(1+2+3+4 = 10 x 4) is fourty and five times by three (40 x 3^5) is 9720
Even the erudite Dutch scholar Roelof van den Broek  who contributes most of our phoenix references, has to ignore Plutarch's warning that "Those that do not interpret 'generation' well make an immense total of this time" because scholars are forced by the academic traditions to consider every option. The scholar even calculates that a raven could reach the age of 3,600 years because it would symbolize the Babylonian ‘sar’. Based on the option that the given lifespans are purely allegorical he proposes that the lifespan of the phoenix might be as much as 32,400 years, although no astrologer was able to calculate the stars and planets over such a long period of time. Nevertheless, he bases this hypothesis on Plato's 'Great Year' as proposed by the Roman astrologer Manilius who wrote that the Great Year starts ‘around noon on the day the sun enters the sign of the Ram', which we’ll address in the context of astronomy.
We have learned, however, that an entire life can be interpreted as a unit of ‘one’, like the one day in the sphinx riddle, which is suggested by the calculation of 972 years for the lifespan of the phoenix. In view of Plutarch's reference to Pindar, both priests from the Oracle of Delphi seem to be in agreement that the solution is as simple as the riddle of the sphinx – that it is only about the truth!
Plutarch appears to have replaced Hesiod's ‘chattering crow’ with a ‘cawing crow’ to avoid an allusion to the chattering Pythia, the priestess of the Delphi oracle. More importantly, he replaced Hesiod’s ‘aged men’ with a generic solution because men can be ‘in their vigor’ at any age! Finally, there is the sacred Pythagorean ‘ten’ that gives the nymphs a lifespan of 9720 years. Cleombrotus never brings up their claim to live ten times longer than the phoenix, only their questionable lifespan. Although he uses a different calculation, the 9720 years could not be true in either case, whether the nymphs are immortal divinities or demons that only live as long as trees!
We are reminded that that this is about morals, the title of these works, which Plutarch explains in “On the Worship of Isis and Osiris”, a treatise about Egyptian mythology of course, which he opens with a definition of his moral values: “For we believe that there is nothing more important for man to receive, or more ennobling for God of His grace to grant, than the truth.” The surprising revelation about Plutarch's faith makes us realize that because the claim of the nymphs is not true, we are not supposed to multiply the lifespan of the phoenix by ten, but have to remove it:
972-10 = 962
This simplistic solution is validated by the hidden calculation we had inserted above. It is ignored by the dialogue because nine years for a crow and thirty-six for a stag would be acceptable lifespans and make it too easy to solve the riddle. Furthermore, it would take us to the ‘old age of a raven’ which is known from legends, but its lifespan of 108 years can't be true either and must be eliminated as well:
962-108 = 854
Our solution of 854 years for the lifespan of the phoenix did not come as a surprise because of certain religious matters, which we shrink like Herodotus from mentioning and introduce from sheer necessity: The Viennese astronomer K. Ferrari d’Occhieppo  dismisses Kepler’s theory about the Star of Bethlehem and claims with Babylonian tablets that the Magi were able to predict the planetary positions in 7/6 BCE and calculate a planetary cycle of 854 years. We will document this cycle with detailed astronomical data below and should add that during our private correspondence in the 1980s the astronomer insisted that the Christmas Star was merely a faint Zodiacal light.
For a proper introduction of the planetary triangles we have to go back to Tacitus. His research supports our interpretation of Kepler's findings, that Phoenix and Christmas Star are one and the same event:
"During the consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, a bird called the phoenix, after a long succession of ages, appeared in Egypt and furnished the most learned men of that country and of Greece with abundant matter for the discussion of the marvelous phenomenon. It is my wish to make known all on which they agree with several things, questionable enough indeed, but not too absurd to be noticed: There is a creature sacred to the sun, differing from all other birds in its beak and in the tints of its plumage, which is held unanimously by those who have described its nature. As to the number of years it lives are various accounts. The general tradition says five hundred years. Some maintain that it is seen at intervals of fourteen hundred and sixty-one years, and that the former birds flew into the city called Heliopolis successively in the reigns of Sesostris, Amasis, and Ptolemy, the third king of the Macedonian dynasty, with a multitude of companion birds marveling at the novelty of the appearance. But all antiquity is of course obscure. From Ptolemy to Tiberius was a period of less than five hundred years."
With the comment that "all antiquity is of course obscure", Tacitus agrees with Herodotus who didn't find the phoenix reports very credible either. But a recent appearance of this "marvelous phenomenon" allows him to draw on the 'most learned men' in Egypt and Greece and go beyond the five hundred years, which supports our findings. Furthermore, Tacitus mentions a few important names:
1. Tiberius (42 BCE – 37 CE), Roman Emperor from 14 to 37 CE.
2. Paulus Fabius (Maximus) was 'quaestor' under Augustus during the latter's travels in 22-19 BCE. He was Consul in 11 BCE and Proconsul of the province of Asia in 10/9 BCE, 9/8 BCE or 6/5 BCE.
3. Lucius Vitellius the Elder (before 5 BCE - 51 CE) was Consul in 34 and Governor of Syria in 35. He deposed Pontius Pilate in 36 after complaints from the people in Samaria.
Tacitus establishes a dispute about two dates during the life of Tiberius. Van den Broek (p. 115) confirms the report about the phoenix during the consulship of Vitellus, but "according to Pliny, no one took the phoenix seriously… Tacitus too notes that it was generally thought that the phoenix he said appeared in A. D. 34 was a false one, had not come from Arabia, and had not done any of the things the ancient tradition said it should have done." Hence, the real phoenix would have appeared between 10 and 5 BCE when Paulus Fabius may have been proconsul, which we will narrow down with astronomical data to 6 BCE.
3. A Christian confirmation
The first Christian to write about the phoenix was Clement of Rome, another contemporary of Plutarch and Tacitus, and one of the first popes. He is known as an “Apostolic Father” who provides a direct link (see source) between the Apostles and later generations of Church Fathers. His First Epistle to the Corinthians was widely read and connects the nativity of Christ to the familiar Herodotus report of five hundred years earlier! His timing is quite interesting because he advises the Greeks (see link) to fuse one of their myths with the Christian faith:
“Let us consider the strange sign which takes place in the East, that is in the districts near Arabia. There is a bird which is called the Phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives 500 years; and when the time of its dissolution in death is at hand, it makes itself a sepulcher of frankincense and myrrh and other spices, and when the time is fulfilled it enters into it and dies. Now, from the corruption of its flesh there springs a worm, which is nourished by the juices of the dead bird, and puts forth wings. Then, when it has become strong, it takes up that sepulcher, in which are the bones of its predecessor, and carries them from the country of Arabia as far as Egypt until it reaches the city called Heliopolis, and in the daylight in the sight of all it flies to the altar of the Sun, places them there, and then starts back to its former home. Then the priests inspect the registers of dates, and they find that it has come at the fulfillment of the 500th year.”
proposes that the dead bird revives first as a worm, which shows he read Pliny the Elder's Natural History and Ovid's Metamorphoses, who added the frankincense. Like Herodotus, he has the phoenix reborn in Arabia and bringing its dead parent to Heliopolis. The authors of the website Vision, from where the Clement text is quoted, add: "Whether this was a conscious effort to link the myth to Christ's birth is impossible to say, but later Christian writers similarly limited themselves to naming only these two spices".
Walter Evans-Wentz (1878-1965), an anthropologist and expert on Eastern traditions, writes that the concept of reincarnation was quite common during the first centuries of Christianity, and that it was finally suppressed at the Fifth Council in 563 CE :
"As an examination of... `De Principiis' proves, Origen himself believed in the doctrine. But the theologians who created the Greek canons of the Fifth Council disagreed with Origen's views, and condemned Origen for believing, among other things called by them heresies, that Jesus Christ will be reincarnated and suffer on earth a second time... Tertullian, contemporary with Origen, in his `de Anima' considers whether or not the doctrine of re-birth can be regarded as Christian in view of the declaration by Jesus Christ that John the Baptist was Elias (or Elijah), the old Jewish prophet, come again...
The cosmic succession is confirmed by Matthew's Gospel when John the Baptist is compared to Elijah, the teacher of Elisha. According to the gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: "For up to the time of John all the Prophets and the Law itself prophesied about it, and, if you are ready to accept the idea, he is himself Elijah who was to come" (Mt.11:13-14). After the Transfiguration the disciples ask Jesus again: "Then why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first? He answers: Elijah does come and is to reform everything, but I tell you, Elijah has come already, and they would not recognize him... Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist" (Mt.17:10-13).
Hence, Jesus considered himself the reincarnation of the prophet Elisah (Eliseus) because he would have read about his miracles in the Hebrew Bible. Just as Jesus succeeds John at the banks of the Jordan river, Elisha succeeds Elijah at the Jordan with "double his spirit" (2 K. 2). Both are said to have had miraculous powers over water: In their first miracles, Elisha purifies the waters of Jericho (2 K. 19) and Jesus changes water into wine (Jn.2:1-11). Later, Elisha makes an iron ax head float on water (2 K.6:6), and Jesus walks on water (Mt.14:22-26). Like Jesus, Elisha heals the sick and achieves a miraculous "Multiplication": A man brings Elisha "twenty barley loaves" to feed a hundred men and "they ate and left some over according to the LORD." (2 K.4:42-44). More dramatically, Christ feeds five thousand with "five loaves and two fish" (Mt.14:19) and the leftovers "filled twelve baskets", and four thousand with seven loaves and fish, and the leftovers "filled seven baskets." (Mt.15:34-48).
The existence of Ahab is historically supported outside the Bible , which allows us to date the mission of Elisha and separate him from Jesus by 854 years. We regard this as solid proof from internal evidence that goes beyond establishing that the Star of Bethlehem was a return of the Phoenix.
The Church Fathers, however, connected the phoenix to Christ until the fifth century when Ambrose, Cyril of Jerusalem and Jerome were still repeating the myth, but began offering it as proof" of the reality of (Christ’s) resurrection. In the words of Cyril, “God knew men’s unbelief and provided for this purpose a bird called a Phoenix" A spectacular example, however, is a Coptic sermon from the 6th century , which van den Broek discovered and translated. It mentions ten dramatic appearances of the phoenix, from Cain and Abel to the birth of Christ, when it was seen last in Jerusalem:
"...There is a bird called phoenix. This bird, when the fire came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice of Abel the righteous, the fire of that sacrifice (now) consumed that bird at the same time, reduced it to ashes...
This bird indicates to us the resurrection of the Lord. Just as the bee eats from the flowers of the field which are wax to it, and from the dew of heaven which is honey to it, so too the phoenix lives on the dew of heaven and the flowers of the trees of Libanon. At the time (now) that God brought the children out of Egypt by the hand of Moses, the phoenix showed itself on the temple of On (Heliopolis), the city of the sun...
According to the number of its years it was the tenth time since genesis after the sacrifice of Abel that it made a sacrifice of itself: in this year (now) the Son of God was born in Bethlehem. And on the day the priest Zechariah was killed, they installed the priest Simeon in his place. The phoenix burned itself on the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. On the eighth day after the holy Virgin had brought fourth our Savior, she took him with Joseph to the temple in order to make a sacrifice for him as firstborn, he was named Jesus. From that moment on no one has ever seen this bird up to this day.
ur fathers have born witness: God shall shame the idol worshippers on the day of judgment because of this bird, because ... you have not looked at this same bird ... which after three days lives and assumes its former shape. This bird (now) indicates to us the resurrection..."
Van den Broek's goes on to demonstrate how the myth of the phoenix figured in Judeo-Christian traditions. On God's preference of Abel's sacrifice over Cain's, he compares texts "on the heavenly fire that descended at the consecration of the temple at Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 7:1), with Elijah's sacrifice on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:38). That Coptic Christians related this "divine fire" to the death and rebirth of the phoenix can be supported (below) with astronomical evidence that the consecration occurred in 860 BCE, which could have been the year of Elijah's sacrifice and Elisha's birth. In view of the nativity in 6 BCE, which the early Church Fathers connect to the phoenix, some later doctrines about Christ's death and resurrection may be affected by the astronomical data.
4. Astronomical support
We have shown earlier that Kepler introduces the Trigons of the Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions, which limits the cycle to 800 years. However, he features the "great conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars" as more important, which relates to the 854-year cycles he did not address openly. It was probably as far as he could go without risking his life because his peers would know that the planetary positions repeat in the same location of the Zodiac after 72 orbits of Jupiter, 29 of Saturn, and a little over 454 of Mars. The cycle is actually 19.86 x 43 = 853.98, slightly less than 854 years. However, with Tuckerman's published data even amateurs can show that "planetary triangles" appeared in these intervals. The return of the phoenix in 849 CE below confirms the claim of the 6th century Coptic sermon that 6 BCE was its last appearance:
WATERY TRIANGLE on February 12, 6 BCE and FIERY TRIANGLE on February 28, 6 BCE
WATERY TRIANGLE on January 21, 849, and FIERY TRIANGLE on February 02, 849 CE
Our sketches are based on Tuckerman's ephemerides, which have Mars arrive late and extend the triangles a little. But they demonstrate the period of nine months from the first conjunction to the formation of the triangles at the same location, which is caused in both events by the retrograde motion of the planets, an optical illusion that can only be seen from Earth. In view of Kepler's suggestion that there is grain of truth in the fertile "dung of superstition", we should consider that millenniums of astrology can't be total nonsense, that the wise men of Antiquity could not have been entirely wrong for so long! Isn't it possible that the ancients still shared with the animal kingdom a higher sensitivity to external 'forces' we have since lost, as suggested by the Swiss philosopher Rudolf Steiner? Perhaps, the diverse cycles could be like a "cosmic clock" that influences the evolutionary process. Even the old saying that "history repeats itself " could be based on these cycles!
Amateurs like us are fortunate because we can keep an open mind and make such claims without risking an academic reputation! We can look at the facts and avoid "believing" others, including the experts! This is why, before we proceed, Tuckerman's dates need to be shown for skeptics to support the above sketches. There is no year 0, which is why 6 BCE is -5:
Thanks to the Information Age, anyone can access Tuckerman's tables since the 1960s, although they cover "only" 601 BCE to CE 1 (v.1) and 2 to 1649 CE (v.2), which required some extra creativity in the 1980's. During a visit at the Griffith Observatory (Los Angeles), the resident astronomer John Mosley generated the triangles on his little computer and suggested that Radio Shack may have similar software. But this seemed a bit crude and a friend at JPL (Pasadena) was kind enough to get us print-outs of specific Solar and planetary positions in 860 and 6 BCE, 849 and 1703 CE. Several metamorphoses can be seen which would have pleased Ovid: There is a transformation from a watery to a fiery triangle and a shift of roughly 6.5 degrees forward until the vernal equinox is passed in 1702. Tuckerman's calculations are flawed regarding the positions of Mars, but we can use planetarium software like "Starry Night" today and travel millenniums into the past and future on a laptop – with a click of the mouse. Although the triangles form every 854 years, the examples we chose at random demonstrate that they were observed since the dawn of civilization:
March 15, 7691 BCE
October 29, 4276 BCE
May 6, 2568 BCE
The triangles moved in those 7000 years from Taurus to Aries in regular intervals of 854 years and were followed by the vernal equinox because of a “Precession of the Equinoxes”. The example of 7691 shows that the triangle was too close to the sun to be visible because it formed during the day, which occurred also in 860, and the image of 4276 shows the Pleiades in the upper left corner. It would seem that at the dawn of civilisation, when people could enjoy the whole vault of the sky as nightly enlightenment, these triangles were a spectacular event and interpreted by wise men as omens. Why else are triangles featured by so many ancient cultures? Originally, pre-historic observatories like Stonehenge were probably built to establish the winter solstice so that the coming year could be predicted and everything planted at the right time. But once the triangles were noticed the priests may have connected them to current events and used them for their prophecies. With the stars flowing every night like a stream from sunset to sunrise from the East to the West, the planets seemed to be stemming the flow and were regarded as more powerful, and venerated as deities. Because each day repeats every 854 years, when recurring triangles were repeating in other parts of the Zodiac it may have led to the belief that "history repeats itself" At left is a Neolithic carving from Scotland's remote Orkney Islands where pre-historic temples were built for sun worship around 3200, or in 3422, and the triangles suggest they observed the phoenix. According to archeologist Nick Card  "all these monuments are inextricably linked in some grand theme we can only guess at. And the people who built all this were a far more complex and capable society than has usually been portrayed". Hence, we venture the educated guess that the carvings on the stone recorded the fiery and watery triangles of the planets – and the Zs at the left edge their retrograde movements. The above triangles were carved at least six centuries before the most famous fiery triangle in history, the Great Pyramid of Giza, which commemorates the death of Khufu (2589-2566) and is also aligned with the sun. Based on our researches the pyramid and sphinx point Eastward because a fiery triangle of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars rose from the Nile on May 6, 2568, at 6:00 AM and was consumed an hour later by the rising sun, which the Egyptians venerated as the sun god Amun-Ra. Therefore the same celestial event may have inspired the inhabitants of the Orkney Islands and the builders of the Great Pyramid to believe in a heavenly gate to the afterlife!
5. Did we finally trap the elusive phoenix?
The phoenix myth was known at least since 750-650 BCE, when Hesiod created his works, and his riddle suggests there had been reports of the planetary massing in 860 BCE, at least from Heliopolis. We have covered the 854-year cycle with the return of the phoenix in 6 BCE, which is celebrated by Christianity as the "Star of Bethlehem". We got the idea to investigate the entire cycle from a book by Werner Greub (1909-1997), an inspired grail researcher of the Anthroposophical Society. He based his interesting theories on K. Ferrari d'Occhieppo, but localized the grail myth in Switzerland.
According to teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), which combine Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, many spiritual mysteries relate to the grail, which used to be a major focus at their Waldorf Schools around the world. In his book "Der Stern der Weisen" (The Star of the Wisemen) Walther Bühler  follows the teachings of Steiner and depicts the "rhythm of the great conjunction Saturn-Jupiter", which he outlines with images he based on Kepler's drawings to show that the hexagram at right forms every 60 years. But their "geisteswissentschaft" (spiritual science) features the motion of the Trigons through the Zodiac in the form of hexagrams as shown for a period of 854 years below. Nevertheless, this adds a higher dimension to our findings and is deeply appreciated because our quest started at a Waldorf School as well.
Bühler bases these conjunctions in intervals of 854 years (19.86 x 43 = 853.98) on the points of the Trigon as they move through the Zodiac, as depicted at left, which means that after 42 conjunctions, the 43rd returns to the same location. He also points out that the Gospel of Matthew opens with Christ's genealogy, which is in three groups of fourteen generations ((3 x 14 = 42) and may pertain to the 42 conjunctions. However, Bühler did not clarify that Kepler distinguished between the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter and the "great conjunction" of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in 6 BCE, the year of Christ's birth. The former take 973.1 years to move through the Zodiac, claims Bühler, and only the latter follows 854 years when the Trigons form hexagrams every 60 years.
This takes us to 849 CE, which we feature as the grail event at Montserrat in an age when blood was spilled at the drop of a hat and fanatic Muslims and Christians murdered each other. In 2018, after decades of researching the grail myth, this painting of the Magi from a church in the Pyrenees came to our attention where the "fiery" and "watery" triangles are depicted on the robes of the Magi. (If you click on the image at right, you'll reach one of our blogs about the Christian source of grail romance.) The fresco was painted in the early 12th century, decades before Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach discovered the Holy Grail. Wolfram's poem "Parzival" contains a hidden structure that follows the Platonic numbers of Plutarch's riddle , and when the German introduces the grail he reveals that its secrets are written in the stars and empower the phoenix to be revived from its ashes!
March 3, 860 BCE
February 12, 6 BCE
January 22, 849 CE
March 19, 860 BCE February 25, 6 BCE
January 31, 849 CE
Note: The dates are based on a viewing position from the Middle East, and it is difficult to pick the right day. This is due to an optical effect because Earth wobbles, which makes it seem that the planets stand still at times or even move backwards in a retrograde motion.
The above examples of the phoenix cycle remind of the 'fullness of time', also known as the 'great Platonic year', which is often interpreted as the 26,000 years of an entire precession orbit. We doubt that anyone in Antiquity made this kind of calculation, which is supported by Otto Neugebauer who writes "almost any period can be found sometime or somewhat honored with this name" . That our choice of the 854-year cycle may be the right solution has not only support from Plutarch, but also from Cicero (106 - 43 BCE) who proposes in ‘De Natura Deorum’  that Plato’s great year "is completed when the sun, moon and five planets having finished all their courses have returned to the same position" and by adding that "the length of this period is hotly debated".
Hence, we propose that the "Star" or phoenix heralds the fullness of time because all planets seem to be "burned" by the sun in Pisces, which makes them invisible during the day and removes them from the night sky. But once they clear the sun, they return like ducks in a row for a "new beginning" at night in Aries, the First Sign. Skeptics should kindly consider that planetary line-ups are not to be confused with conjunctions. A conjunction of more than two planets doesn't seem to exist and our ancient sages were no fools – when they said the planets line up in Aries they really meant it.
6. Tentative conclusions
Planetarium software like "Starry Night" reveals that the planetary triangles appeared since the dawn of civilization. During millenniums of turmoil and social changes on earth, the predictable return of this celestial phenomenon could have been interpreted in different cultures as a some kind of divine order or higher revelation. Although the sun circles the entire Zodiac in a year, the triangles form around 10 degrees farther west every 854 years because Earth wobbles on its axis. This means that from 7691 until 5129 BCE the triangles appeared after sunset in the West, and from 4276 to 1714 BCE before sunrise in the East. They were invisible in 860 and 7691 BCE, for example, but the Sun had passed the triangles in 6 BCE, which made them visible again right after sunset.
If we consider that our entire Solar system moves in cycles of 854 years and that these triangles herald a planetary line-up from Earth all the way to the outer planets, we can easily imagine that this event played a role in our history and evolution. In a world without television, books, cars and any of the other modern conveniences, the peoples of the Mediterranean and the Middle East had every night to contemplate the whole vault of the sky. Their observation of the three planets close to the sun since the beginning of civilization would explain why they had been taken for gods, including the diverse trinitatrian concepts. Our examples are difficult to dismiss as coincidences and indicate that the celebrated Aristotelian revolution may have also had its price: A lost “gnosis” about a link between astrophysical and genetic phenomena, the macrocosm and the microcosm. This is probably why Chrétien started his grail poem with the parable of the seed to lead to a grail that "shines so brightly that the light of the candles fade like the stars when the Sun or Moon are rising".
According to our findings, the "Star of Bethlehem" is not a Christian miracle but merely another return of the phoenix. This adds a dramatic perspective to Biblical prophesy and allows the interpretation that Elijah and Elisha reincarnated as John the Baptist and Jesus Christ after 854 years, or that they believed in such a "divine miracle" which would make the resurrection and reincarnation synonymous. It also means that some kind of phoenix effect had been observed by ancient civilizations and that Kepler was the last to refer to it when he wrote in his almanach that the planetary event in 1604 created some kind of vibration that led everyone to do everything with greater intensity. In De stella nova, Kepler adds cautiously that the Supernova was either a natural phenomenon or created by God and wondered if the astronomical events in 1604 could inspire humanity to invent the art of flying, and travel to the Moon and other planets?  Why did he emphasize so strongly that other worlds in the universe are inhabited, as suggested by the "unfortunate Giordano Bruno and Tycho Brahe" (Kepler), unless he contemplated that the line-ups of our Solar system open up some kind of communication? Because some forms of radiation are still unknown the only explanation for this force is that it could originate in an inhabited Solar system somewhere between Pisces and Aries or in the Pleiades? An adventurous idea that will be explored on the next level of our project, but without losing sight of other cycles. If we can establish that certain events repeat every 854 years, we might even be able to foretell the future. With a better understanding of these phenomena, there could come a time when we can predict natural catastrophes – and reduce fanatism, avoid holocausts, and even abolish war!
Berossus of Babylon proposed that if these planetary "massings" or line ups are under the sign of Cancer, the world would burst into flames, and when they are under Capricorn, there would be great inundations. He responded apparently to Plato's claim that many ancient civilizations had been destroyed, either by water in the valleys or fire in the mountains. This indicates that the direction of the line-up might determine the type of radiation that reaches our planet. Planetarium software shows that the line-ups reach beyond Saturn and include Neptune and Uranus, which suggests there could be a galactic 'antenna effect' which is amplified by gaseous Solar tides and reaches into outer space in regular intervals. Hence, the Platonic concept that our planet is a living organism could get some support if we can show that this repeating "radiation" has a direct effect on our DNA, on the meteorological conditions, and on our development and psyche! The existence of a force "from above" would actually confirm some religious beliefs if we can establish that it guides the evolution. DNA research may establish some day that highly evolved individuals remember past lives under certain conditions, and we may find, for example, that Stalin, Mao and Hitler revived the fanatism of the First Crusade 854 years later, and that the Second Crusade matches the religious conflicts of the 21st century. In pre-historic times, natural disasters may have changed the climates and forced our African ancestors to follow the animals (their food) to greener pastures in the North until they were trapped in hostile environments. During big and little ice ages our northern ancestors had to withdraw to caves where they slowly turned "lighter" again as their pigmentation adapted. Hence, the animals they painted on the walls of caves could have been fond memories of better times! Those who had to survive the challenges of snow and ice without caves had to squint for milleniums and turned "Asian", while tribes that were caught in the South suffered under extreme heat and kept getting darker to protect them from the sun, which would explain why the insides of their hands and soles of their feet are still so much lighter!
However, before we get carried away with the controversial subject of "race" and visit a black Madonna and Child in Montserrat, we should point out that we have reached one of the many crossroads of the quest! Those of you, who don't want to deal with the winding path of superstitious mythology may want to return to more solid ground. Master Chrétien is a good choice because he deals with 849 CE and requires the sharp mind of a philologist. It's all about history and etymology, and definitely more fun than Balaam, Elisha and Jesus Christ! But whichever virtual path you chose, don't be surprised if you're crossing paths many times, even in the Catholic sense. It's the nature of this adventure!
1. Plutarch, de defectu oraculorum, Moralia, Vol. XI, (Harvard, 1927), pp. 381-87
2. R. van den Broek, The Myth of the Phoenix, According to Classical and early Christian traditions, (Leiden, 1972). He lists Ovid, Lucan, Martial, Pomp. Mela, Seneca, Statius, Chaeremon, Tzetzes, Pliny, Clement, etc., p. 393
3. Konradin Ferrari d'Occhieppo, Hypothese zu einer 854-jährigen Planetenperiode in der Babylonischen Astronomie, (Vienna, 1969). His concept is developed from the Babylonian cuneiform tablet (British Museum Inf. No. 35429) and other fragments, where the positions of Saturn and Jupiter in 7 BCE are supposedly recorded. We corresponded with the professor emeritus in 1987 when he lived in Innsbruck, from where he sent us the above article, which would become a major part of our study.
4. W.Y. Evans-Wentz, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, University Books, 1966, pp. 359-362. He studied as Walter Wentz religion, philosophy, and history at Stanford, followed by Celtic mythology at Oxford where he published his thesis as the above book in 1911. He met T.E. Lawrence (...of Arabia) at Oxford who advised him to travel to the Orient and change his German name. Wentz added his mother's surname to become W.Y. Evans-Wentz and spent most of his life in India and Tibet.
Shalmaneser III of Assyria documented in 853 BC that he defeated an alliance of a dozen kings in the Battle of Qarqar; one of these was Ahab. He is also mentioned on the inscriptions of the Mesha Stele.
6.Van den Broek, pp.119,12
7.National Geographic, The First Stonehenge, Scotland's Master Builders, (August 2014, USA), pp. 42-33, photographed by Jim Richardson.
8. Walther Bühler, Der Stern der Weisen, Vom Rhytmus der Grossen Konjunktion Saturn - Jupiter, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, (Stuttgart, 1982), pp. 40, 43. He credits Werner Greub, Wolfram von Eschenbach und die Wirklichkeit des Grals, Dornach, 1974, who based his astronomy on Konradin Ferrari d'Occhieppo's book Der Stern der Weisen whom Bühler fails to reference, probably because he borrowed his title!
8. Hans Eggers, Strukturprobleme mittelalterlicher Epik, dargestellt am Parzival Wolframs von Eschenbach Euphorion 47 (Osnabrück, 1953), pp. 260-270, repr. in Eggers, Kleine Schriften, ed. H. Backes, W. Haubrichs and R. Rath (Tübingen, 1982), pp. 161-173 at pp. 264-265 of the original. Eggers detected a structure in the poem of 7 groups of 108 paragraphs of 30 lines each. The odd choices of 3,4,9, 30 and 108 seem to derive from Plutarch, ‘De defectu oraculoram’, printed in Plutarch, Moralia, ed. and trans. Frank C. Babbitt, L. I. C. Pearson and F. H. Sandbach (Cambridge, 1927-76), 15 vols in 16, V, pp. 347-501 and pp. 381-383. See Otto Springer, Wolfram's Parzival, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, A collaborative history, ed. Roger Sherman Loomis, (Oxford, 1959), p.247. Springer defines the discovery of Eggers as follows: "The first section of exactly 108 units (30 lines each) is the added story of Parzival's parents. This is followed by 3 sections of 108 units (109-432) until book IX, the core of the work, which only has 70 units of 30 lines. Then there are again 3 sections of 108 units (503-827), until the poem ends after unit 827."
9. Otto Neugebauer, A History of Ancient mathematical astronomy, (Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1975), p. 618
10. Cicero, de natura deorum academica, tr. H. Rackham, (Cambridge Massachusets – London, 1967)
11. Johannes Kepler, Über den neuen Stern im Fuss des Schlangenträgers, tr. Otto & Eva Schönberger, Eberhard Knobloch, (Würzburg, 2006), p. 216
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