© 1999
by Lance Carlyle Carter

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This is the Age of the Goddess. The North Celestial Pole now resides in the constellation Ursa Minor near the star Polaris. Many legends and myths associated with the star Polaris and Ursa Minor are about women and spiritual principles. This great age could be referred to as the Age of Polaris, the Age of Ursa Minor, the Age of the Little Bear, the Age of Women, the Age of the Priestess or the Age of the Goddess.

In this article we will investigate the precession of the equinox in relation to the northern sky. Then the myths associated with Ursa Minor and Polaris will be reviewed. The connection between Ursa Minor and the High Priestess card in the Tarot deck will be examined. The alphabet will also be related to constellations. And we will take a quick look at the significance of the South Celestial Pole.


Relationship between Polar Ages, Zodiacal Ages and Constellational Boundaries

The ages defined by constellational boundaries on the ecliptic are not the same as the ages as measured along the precessional path of the North Celestial Pole. The boundary lines between the northern constellational ages on the precessional path of the North Celestial Pole are directly related to the zodiacal constellations that fall along the ecliptic and the stars in those regions can be used as the rulers of that area of the sky. Constellations aren't geometrically segmented along lines of celestial latitude and celestial longitude as the accepted modern boundaries between them are, so relating a particular zodiacal age to a polar age is difficult at best. The difficulty here is that there is a question about whether the zodiacal ages are measured by time it takes the vernal equinox point to travel through the length of the zodiacal constellation on the ecliptic or whether great ages are measured by dividing the ecliptic into twelve equal sections.

Although these great ages last thousands of years, they have little to do with geologic ages or our Western calendar for that matter. These great ages, named after constellations, were created to measure the long periods of time it takes for the slow-moving stellar reference points to appear to traverse a distance in the sky.

These pesky equinoxes crop up again and again because of the obliquity of the ecliptic, which is the 23 degree 27 minute angle that the plane of the ecliptic makes to the plane of the equator. The intersection points of these celestial planes on the ecliptic mark the two equinoctial points. When the sun moves north across the equator at the vernal equinox, spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere. When the sun moves south across the equator at the autumn equinox, fall begins in the Northern Hemisphere.

The zodiacal ages gain their significance because the vernal equinox point travels along the ecliptic, which is the center of the band of constellations referred to as the zodiac. The polar ages are significant because observers on Earth look toward the north celestial pole and use the northern star (currently Polaris) to identify north from their location. Thousands of years from now, the north celestial pole will point to other stars and Polaris won't be the northern star.

Our current polar age, the Age of Ursa Minor, began over two millennia ago and will continue for centuries to come. It is important to remember that the age of Ursa Minoris is a polar age while the Age of Aquarius is a zodiacal age. It would be a pun to say that Ursa Minor is a little polar bear. The Age of Ursa Minor extends its rulership over a period of time that spans parts of the Piscean Age and as well as the Aquarian Age. One might surmise that the Age of Ursa Minor is ushering in the Age of Aquarius. However it wouldn't be fair to say the Age of Ursa Minor rules the Aquarian Age, because they both gain their significance from their current association with the precession of the equinox.

The path of the North Celestial Pole around the pole of the Ecliptic isn't exactly circular, because it wobbles a little due to the fact that there is an oscillation in the earth's spin caused by the gravitational attraction that the sun, the moon and to a lesser extent, the planets have upon the bulge at the earth's equator. All of these attractions add up to cause the precession of the equinox and the precession of the North Celestial Pole.

The wobble of the earth causes the Celestial Poles to trace circles in the polar skies that take about 26,000 years to complete one rotation. This movement of the North Celestial Pole around the earth's poles can be measured using astronomical instruments and it is possible that ancient peoples observed the precession of the North Celestial Pole with the same methods used to measure the precession of the equinox and/or the eclipse cycles. The pole of the ecliptic is not the same as magnetic north, which is based on geological phenomena. The pole of the ecliptic is not the same as the North Celestial Pole, which lies at North 90 degrees. The pole of the ecliptic is the center point of the ecliptic as projected onto the celestial dome. The actual location in the sky of the North Ecliptic Pole is now in the center of the coils of Draco.

The Age of Aquarius and the Age of the Goddess

By now the readers may be asking "Wasn't the Age of Aquarius about to begin, how can this be the Age of the Goddess too? And what about the Piscean Age? That's not over yet is it? Please explain these celestial complications before I get a headache."

If we take a broader perspective and see that these times are ruled by more than one type of great age, then maybe the other side of the story can be told. When we talk about the Aquarian Age we should also include comments about the Age of Polaris because they both are significant. If we ignore the polar ages it is like ignoring women. When trying to understand the myths and legends concerning the constellation Aquarius, those myths and the assumptions about the Aquarian Age must be seen in context of a greater picture which includes the Age of Ursa Minor. There are smaller divisions of the ages that will be discussed at a later time. The northern star plays a major part in constellational mythology, so let us investigate the meanings attached to the star Polaris and the constellation Ursa Minor.

Let's now consider how the Age of Aquarius can also be the Age of the Goddess. The vernal equinox marks a point on the ecliptic considered to be an indicator of a zodiacal age, while the North Celestial Pole points to the a star in the northern sky considered to be an indicator of the polar age. For the next century or so, the North Celestial Pole will approach the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the smaller bear, while the vernal equinox point will be in the zodiacal constellation of Pisces. Later it will enter Aquarius. The exact time of this occurrence depends on which star maps one uses. Therefore we can consider Ursa Minor and Aquarius as co-rulers of the approaching new age.

The Age of Ursa Minor began when the North Celestial Pole moved into the constellation Ursa Minor centuries ago, according to some star maps. The current North Star, Polaris, is in Ursa Minor as was its predecessor, Kochab. So, the same constellation, Ursa Minor, has ruled this polar age for over 3000 years.

After The North Celestial Pole makes its closest approach to Polaris, it will continue on its precessional journey until it approaches the star Alrai ("Arrai" from Arabic meaning 'shepherd') in the constellation Cepheus thousands of years from now. In those times people may refer to North Pole Star as the "Shepherd Star" for the star Alrai will then indicate the northern direction as Polaris does in these times. The North Celestial Pole will travel through the stars of Cepheus until it makes its long journey toward Deneb of the constellation Cygnus.

In the far future, in about 13,500 AD, the North Celestial Pole will be near the star Vega in the constellation Lyra and travel in the area near Vega for a few thousand years. It is interesting to note that the North Celestial Pole is believed to have been near the star Draconis of the constellation Draco at around 3000 BC and close to Thuban of Draco about 4000 years ago. There are long stretches of time when no particular bright naked-eye star has the honor of being the North Star because of the large gaps between bright stars in that part of the sky.

Mythology of Polaris and Ursa Minor

The northern star plays a major part in constellational mythology, so let us investigate the meanings attached to the star Polaris and the constellation Ursa Minor.

The current pole star, Polaris, has been honored since Phoenician times, and one might surmise that the star in closest proximity of the North Celestial Pole would have significance of almost constellational magnitude. In fact there are a multitude of myths about the star Polaris that rival some constellations. Polaris has lured countless souls into adventure and exploration for it was known as a fixed and true beacon that would guide any lost soul home or on to their true destiny. Polaris is the celestial compass that the sailor cherishes when his magnetic compass has been lost overboard in the storm. Polaris is the light at the end of the tunnel. Polaris says it will all be OK if you continue on steadily. Polaris gives hope when hope is lost.

The North Celestial Pole had great significance to the ancient navigators and astronomers who measured heavenly motions. Knowing the motions of the heavens could determine whether a sailor could get back to home port or not. The observation of the precessional motion of the equinox points gave rise to mythologies that can be interpreted with the history of astronomical understanding.

Ursa Minor is a small constellation with a great importance in stellar lore. In very ancient times the stars in the northern sky was revered as a kind of heaven where the god's resided in luxury. Ursa Minor was seen as a leopard in ancient Babylon and the Egyptians saw these stars as the Jackel of Set. Today we fondly call these stars as the Little Dipper while we refer to them as the Little Bear.

The Phoenician sailors noticed that the North Star Polaris could be used for celestial navigation and soon Ursa Minor gained in recognition from about 600 BC. The box-like body and tail of the smaller bear pointed to the North Star, making those stars a welcome sight on a foggy night out at sea. The constellation Ursa Minor would speak to the sailors and guide them on their voyages. The constellation Ursa Minor resembles a mountaintop that is at the top of the world.

That mountain was a place of meditation and calm. It was the relief of knowing you are headed in the right direction. It is the end of fear and indecision. The pole star gave hope to the sailors who wanted to see their native lands again. The pole star was the message that told that all was well. The polar region was the entrance to heaven, the other world where souls go after death of the physical body. It was a place of gladness and rejoicing as opposed to the everyday drudgery that most endured. It was a place of eternal youth and beauty and of joy and pleasure and good times. It was a place where men and women came to meet with the gods and where they shared the waters of life.

These stars are soothing to the sailor's soul for the polar stars are a guide back to the real world that the seaman abandoned when he threw his destiny into the sea. Like the promise of spiritual rebirth at the end of time, these stars point the way back to reality and are therefore adored and blessed above the rest. If any sailor had a favorite star, it was usually the bright Polaris that remains in place while the other stars dizzied you with their spinning pace.

Like a jewel in the night, the celestial sky revolves around Polaris. Polaris is like a nail that pins the spinning stars to an axis that pivots around it. The stars of Ursa Minor are a stairway to heaven. These stars are said to represent the Great Tree of Life, the World Tree that lies at the pivotal axis of the world. The Greek hero Theseus wrestled with Kerkuon who tried to bend down the branches of the cosmic tree, but Theseus kept straightening them up again. This constellation can also be seen as a great pillar or column that extends from the smaller bear's feet to the star Polaris. Some believed that secret caves could be found on the mountain that would lead to another world, a paradise in the firmament. That place was a hold where people could survive and hold out in bad conditions. Some saw the stars of the little bear as a car or chariot of various designs, and the box like shape of the bears body would certainly make a fine beginning for the design of a cart's chassis if Polaris could somehow be roped to pull it.

It is believed that the Greek god Zeus honored his nurse Cynosura with a place in the stars of Ursa Minor because she nursed him in a cave on the top of Mount Ida. Cynosura would spin in a wild fashion while clashing symbols in an attempt to conceal Zeus' location from his father Cronus. The name Cynosura is also applied to the star Polaris. Cynosura was translated as "Dog's Tail" but that may refer to the star Polaris and the fact that the constellation of the bear is associated with the legends of Callisto as an aspect of Artemis who often hunted with hounds. Ursa Minor may be the bear form of Arcas. It wouldn't be hard to draw the shape of a hound dog over the stars of Ursa Minor as the Romans and others did.

Polaris has been called the Star of the Mountain because it sits at the pivot of the heavens in the northern sky. It is a holy place where we go for inspiration. It is the temple or church where one goes for refuge. It is the safe place that is warm and secure. It is the feeling that you are being cared for by a higher power. Polaris is like your guardian angel that guides and protects you when you need it. Polaris is the jewel in the crown of the northern sky and its brightness can make hearts glad and rejoice. Those who fix their steady gaze upon these stars are sure to see inspiration and may even see the northern lights that delight those who dwell in those upper climes. Arab tribesmen believed that gazing upon this star would relieve itchiness of the eyes, but that still remains to be seen. The north is a place where the fairies and dwarfs and elves dwell, although no one knows where exactly or how they would live in the snow. It is also said that Santa Claus and Mary Christmas Claus live up there with some elves. The northern sky is known as the throne of the heavens and is where the holy woman lives.

Although the North Star as been known as the throne of the great supreme father in heaven, it is its connection to the feminine principle that we will investigate because of associations that the star Polaris has with great spiritual women. The Christian saint Jerome called the Virgin Mary by the title of Stella Maris which means: 'The star of the sea', referring to the starring role that Polaris has for sailors. The Hebrew name Miriam also was associated with Polaris. Polaris has always been a symbol of virtue and chaste women because it is the most constant and faithful star in the sky.

The motion of the stars around the pivot star Polaris has long been thought of as being a great celestial mill, with the stars like grains of wheat spinning on the large circular milling stone. Mariners revered the Star of the North for ages, but it was called many names through the centuries by various cultures. Polaris was also known as Stella Polaris, the Tyrian Cynosure, the Steering Star and the Chariot Star. Polaris was also known as the Loadstar or Lodestar in reference to its being like lodestone, a magnetic rock that is used to determine magnetic north. Polaris was known as the Merchant's Guide because merchants used that star to navigate to distant ports. It was called the Ship Star and the Angel Stern or Star of the Angel. It was also known as the Golden Peg, the Spindle Star, the Pivot Star, the Pole Star and the Stake Star. All of these descriptions give us words to describe the polar age we are in now: such as the Age of Polaris, the Age of Ursa Minor or the Age of the Goddess.

Polaris was also known as the Judge of Heaven and the High One of the Enclosure of Light. These descriptions give us some clues about what the Tarot card known as the High Priestess pictures. In the Waite deck, the High Priestess is pictured between two columns, which have close connection to the poles and columns that are associated with the North Star and the constellation Ursa Minor. Polaris is the Alpha star of Ursa Minor. It is understandable to connect Polaris to the High Priestess of the Tarot and to the Christian Virgin Mary. The palmagrenets in the card may picture the seven major stars of Ursa Minor. In an old German bible study text, there is a picture of Mary with the moon at her feet. This connects Mary to the High Priestess card in the Tarot. There is a rich history of lunar symbols that can be investigated such as the study of Ishtar and others.

The moon symbol may be a reference to Revelations 12:1, which describes a woman, clothed with the sun and wearing a crown of twelve stars and being with child and with the moon under her feet.

Sometimes she is pictured between two pillars. These pillars or columns are said to be representative of the stone columns on the porch of King Solomon's Temple. Those pillars were thought to be phallic symbols of strength and may have been portraying the North Celestial Pole. In Canaan, Shahru was the pillar of dawn; Shalmu was the pillar of sunset. Ishtar was also seen with columns. Those columns may actually be rows of stars in the night sky. The columns may also portray the column that was thought to extend from the earth's North Pole to the North Celestial Pole.

Priestess tarot card

The High Priestess card may represent the Spinning Aphrodite, who was associated with the spinning of the sky. Aphrodite has mythical connections with the moon too. Ursa Minor may have been the thrown of Zikum, the Sumerian mother of the world.

The High Priestess card of the Tarot deck may be a key to unlocking the mysteries of the myths, calendars and the alphabet.

Think about the Sacred Mountain that Ursa Minor is said to represent and the caves and artesian springs that flow and renew health and youth. The High Priestess may be shown in a palace in the sky or she may be sitting in a Temple in the Stars.

Let's remember that the Little Bear Ursa Minor and the Big Bear Ursa Major have a lot in common and share some of the same myths. Callisto is thought to be Arctos, the great bear of Ursa Major. Helice may be associated with Callisto too. The bear Cynosura was also referred to as Melissa, who was an aspect of Artemis and Callisto.

The High Priestess holds scrolls of wisdom in her arms and in fact she may hold the key to the mysteries. This card is about spiritual direction and sacred destiny. She is a stellar guide. This card pictures the Mountain of the North at the Peak of the Earth far away in the Northern Heaven.

There is also a sacred fire and divine flame in some myths about Ursa Minor. Like a torch in the night, like a lighthouse on the rocks, the light of Polaris shown sea going peoples and travelers their way home.

There are many more myths to investigate and compare to the imagery on the High Priestess Tarot card, but let's save that for later.

Another celestial consideration is the alphabet. The Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck may have a close correspondence to the ancient Hebrew alphabet. Let's look at the letter B and its connection to Ursa Minor. Figures 1 an 2 illustrate how the letter B can be derived from the stars of Ursa Minor. Tarot cards may be based on an alphabet which was itself based on the constellations used to create ancient calendars.Illustrations that show how the other letters of the alphabet were formed will be presented later. starmap

This obscure form of research called astroarcheology holds the key to understanding ancient calendars and the significance the precession has to those old calendar systems. It is also worth noting that many cultures around the world used the same constellations in the same order for their calendars and they often called them with the same or similar names. The ancient world may have used a universal calendar system that we only have traces of today. Lets go on an archeological hunt in the stars and find clues that tie us to peoples who lived so long ago.