Perhaps, many have heard an expression “with the first (or last) star”, but very few people know whether this expression has any deeper meaning. To be more precise, the very fact of emergence or disappearance of celestial bodies, stars or constellations from the field of vision in the evening or morning sky represents no riddle. By the laws of celestial mechanics, everything is in perpetual motion and appears before our eyes as an indisputably cyclic change of stellar sceneries. However, in this article I will present several arguments evidencing that in ancient times this implied something more serious, and it related to neither superstitions nor religious traditions, but to something totally different.
The first argument is the article Dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Fatima which told about the heliacal setting of the three stars of Orion’s belt. At that point not many readers grasped what was actually discussed. I have to admit even today I have only a hazy notion of the importance of such events, although nothing prevents me from expanding my mental outlook and knowledge in this field.
There is a following explanation regarding the helical rising as provided by mainstream astronomy:
The heliacal rising (ancient Greek ἡλιακός – solar) of a heavenly body (a star or a planet) occurs annually when it first becomes visible above the eastern horizon for a brief moment just before sunrise (“rising at dawn”), after a period of time when it had not been visible. Annual heliacal risings of one and the same star take place approximately on the same day (±1) and may be used for maintaining proper count of calendar days. Historically, the most important of such risings is that of Sirius, which was an important feature of the Egyptian calendar and astronomical development.
Relative to the stars, the sun appears to drift eastward about one degree per day along a path called the ecliptic. While the sun is moving past a given star, the star cannot be seen because it is only above the horizon during the day. The heliacal rising occurs when the sun has moved far enough past the star that the star rises and becomes visible before the sun rises in the morning. Each day after the heliacal rising, the star will rise slightly earlier and remain visible for longer before the light from the rising sun overwhelms it. Over the following days the star will move further and further westward (about one degree per day) relative to the sun, until eventually it is no longer visible in the sky at sunrise because it has already set below the western horizon. This is called the cosmic setting. The same star will reappear in the eastern sky at dawn approximately one year after its previous heliacal rising… Some stars, when viewed from a particular latitude on Earth, do not rise or set. These are circumpolar stars, which are either always in the sky or never. (Wikipedia)
Let me somewhat extend the Egyptian theme that has become habitual on our website. Beyond all doubt, ancient Egyptians intently observed Sirius (Sotis), especially when it appeared in the east. We may assume it was observed more frequently than any other celestial object. Furthermore, we are well aware of the fact that the Egyptian new year fell exactly on the heliacal rising of star Sirius at the times of the pyramids construction and took place on the summer solstice. These events also strangely coincided with the beginning of the Nile annual overflow, which was regarded as a great holiday bringing the abundance of silt-rich water (silt was a natural fertiliser for dry soils of semideserts, invaluable for future harvests).
Star Sirius disappears over the horizon and is not visible for 70 days. (By the way, Orion’s belt is not visible for 72 days.)
This is the time when Isis collects pieces of Osiris’s body dismembered by Seth and mummifies it. Sirius was identified with Isis who raised Osiris from the dead every year on the summer solstice.
The heliacal rising of Sirius roughly looks as follows:
In this picture, above Sirius we can clearly see Osiris himself, or the constellation of Orion.
Yet, let’s recall where we find other mentions of this astronomical phenomenon. The Star of Bethlehem, or the Christmas Star! It was a mysterious celestial event which, according to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi called a star. Having noticed the “star” in the east (a more accurate translation is “at rising”) and concluded the King of the Jews was born, they came to Jerusalem to worship him. Could the star that prompted “Magi from the east” to search for the newborn King be a real astronomical phenomenon? (By the way, speaking of the “three Magi from the east”, an association automatically comes to mind with the three stars of Orion’s belt – Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.) Today it is easy to verify this by means of outstanding software Stellarium.
I won’t fantasise too much and only suggest a little surmise(it might be false, so don’t beat me). Looking at the daybreak sky of Jerusalem in the year 0 AD on the summer solstice, we can see the three stars of Orion’s belt exactly in the east, rising 40 minutes before the emergence of the sun itself. Is it a fortuity? Or, maybe, these three stars are those very “Magi from the east”?
Now, let’s refer to the Christian Holy Scripture. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi saw the “star” two times – once in the east (or more exactly, at rising) and for the second time after it “stopped” above the house where the baby Christ and Mary stayed (note by the article author: aren’t these astronomical hints?):
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11)
While believers blindly believe, inquisitive minds quietly verify whether any patterns or regularities are applicable. At that, incidentally, the historicity of New Testament records as well as the reality of existence of the Star of Bethlehem is unproven. Researchers endeavour to use information relating to the Star of Bethlehem to identify the exact date of Christmas.
There are the following hypotheses:
Halley’s Comet – for 63 days in the autumn of 12 BC;
the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (known in astrology as the Great Conjunction) in Pisces on 15 November 7 BC, and the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in early March 6 BC (according to Johannes Kepler);
the conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (12 August 3 BC) and of Venus and Jupiter (12 August 2 BC);
the nova that flared up near Beta Capricorn and was observed for 70 days in spring 5 BC (according to Chinese and Korean records);
the supernova similar to Tycho’s supernova (according to Gerolamo Cardano);
the nova in the Orion constellation – between 5 and 3 BC (according to Chinese and Persian sources);
I have presented these data in order to suggest an assumption that religious myths might actually signify some major astronomical events that favoured the arrival of great spiritual Teachers to the Earth.
As for nowadays, we can see certain echoes in such events as the Christmas Eve and Christmas itself. The tradition of fasting “till the first star appears” is associated with a legend of the Star of Bethlehem emergence that heralded the birth of Christ. At such hour millions of Christians who follow the Julian calendar gather at the festive table to celebrate Christmas. It is considered that the dinner should be started when the first star appears in the sky.
Jews all over the world celebrate Passover (Pesach) – the main Judaic feast in memory of the Exodus from Egypt. It begins on the fourteenth day of the spring month of Nisan and is celebrated for 7 days. When the first star appears in the sky, solemn services begin in synagogues, and the Passover Seder (Pesach evening) begins. The Passover Seder is strictly regulated and consists of numerous elements. On that night sacred texts are being read, and there is a custom to drink four glasses of wine or grape juice, whereas meals are started only when the first star rises.
Another Jewish feast – Shabbat:
It’s a weekly feast on the seventh day of the week. Shabbat (Shabbos or Sabbath) is translated as Saturday and means REST. That is, according to the Torah, God worked on creation of the Earth for six days, and on the 7th day He took a rest. Therefore Jews, calling themselves the God-chosen nation, must behave just as Israeli God behaved, i.e. rest on the seventh day. Under the Jewish calendar, a day starts in the evening, so on Friday night they start meeting Saturday which is called the Shabbat Queen (Queen Saturday). They utter, “Shabbat Shalom” – “Long live Saturday”. Shabbat starts on Friday, 18 minutes before the sunset. If weather forecasters say, “The sunset is at 9:18 p.m.”, this means they start celebrating at 9 p.m. The feast ends on Saturday night when the first three stars appear in the sky, or 40 minutes after the sunset if the sky is covered with black clouds and no stars are visible. (source)
A little bit of humour discovered on the web:
Empress Catherine II hosts a dinner on the last day of the Christmas fast. Everybody’s eating except Commander Suvorov.
“Why isn’t Count Suvorov eating anything?” the empress asks.
“The fast is taking place, Your Majesty. One shouldn’t eat until the first star appears in the sky. So, I’m waiting,” Suvorov responds.
Everyone stops eating, but Catherine II finds a way out, “Grant the Star Order to Alexander Suvorov!”
(From a series of ads of the Russian bank Imperial)
Now, let’s cite some quotes from the books by Anastasia Novykh, where mentions of “the first stars” are found, too:
“As far as Walpurgis Night is concerned, …” Sensei continued when our group became silent, “nowadays people think it was just one of the significant pre-Christian holidays, quite popular in ancient times and devoted to spring coming and activation of the forces of nature. At different times, different peoples called it in their own way, e.g. the May Eve, Beltane. By the way, in ancient times the Celts, for example, counted days from evening to evening, not from morning to morning. Therefore any significant holiday began as of the appearance of the first star in the sky. The night before the 1st of May signified the arrival of summertime, of the so-called Big Sun. From the earliest times people believed that the gate to another world is opened on this night, and even grass and herbs acquire magic power.” (Sensei of Shambala – Book IV by A. Novykh)
“... knowledge and practices about the World Mountain Meru were accessible to ordinary people, unlike ’usurpation’ of this knowledge by priests of other peoples. For a long time on Slavonic territories people practiced ancient rituals of magic ‘flights’ to the cosmic mountain, which were held on a sacred hill similar by its shape to outlines of the World Mountain. By the way, in old times people celebrated big holidays not because they wanted to enjoy themselves. From time immemorial holidays were arranged on the days that coincided with certain cosmic cycles, and people started celebrations not in the morning as it is habitual today, but in the evening, at the rise of the first star.” (Sensei of Shambala – Book IV by A. Novykh)
It should be noted that not only Gleb Bokiy’s life was extraordinary, but even his death, too. He was quite healthy despite his advanced age. After the memorable meeting with Mezhanin in 1964, Bokiy gathered all his friends and said a totally different level of realities had opened up before him in spiritual practices, which was absolutely incomparable to earthly concepts. He got access to that level and wanted to abandon his body. Bokiy himself appointed the exact time when he would stop his heart, and even joked regarding the punctuality of true security officers. He bade farewell to his friends, and at 7.03 p.m. sharp, when the first star appeared in the sky, his heart stopped just as he had told… (The Crossroads by A. Novykh)
Inspired by the conversation with Gabriel, Mohammed left the cave where he had meditated, and the first thing he saw was a breathtaking view of nature. In the vast evening sky a young crescent shone dazzlingly, and a bright star glowed next to it. At that very instant he had an insight and understood how to communicate the Teaching to people. He understood that God is Love, that God is a permanent action. God does not speak in words, therefore He communicates with people through mediators – archangels who make His will clear to human consciousness. But a human being oneself is free to cognize God through one’s soul. (Sensei of Shambala by A. Novykh)
IN PLACE OF CONCLUSIONS
This article surely provides no complete answer to the question what exactly is hidden behind the concept of heliacal (solar) rising or setting of celestial bodies. There are certainly some very important patterns, and since we don’t have keys we cannot open the door so far. Having collected certain arguments, I have only attempted to somewhat uncover the issue so that it could be addressed again later on.