Many of the ancient solar gods were said to have been either incarnated on earth or born in the heavens/space of virgins. Hercules, Dionysus, Bacchus, Perseus, Horus, Apollonius and the list goes on. Why were the gods so obsessed with virgin women and not more experienced ones, who would have possibly been better suited to bear the child of a god? Was it merely an issue of purity, which has been associated with virginity by many ancient cultures, or was there perhaps something more to this motif, something less terrestrial perhaps? If the ancient mythical systems were rooted in astrological symbolism, or ‘astrotheology’, what was the astronomical association between the virgin and the sun god?
There is an interesting link between the birth of the sun following the winter solstice (December 25th) and the virgin in the form of the constellation of Virgo. On this date, some have suggested, when these allegorical tales were constructed, the constellation of Virgo could be seen rising above the eastern horizon at around midnight on the 24th of December (Morning of the 25th of December), giving birth to the sun after the winter solstice. The sun rising on the east, just beneath Virgo, was said to be born of a virgin. Thus, from the virgin was born the Sun of god.
The thirteenth-century Doctor of the Church and teacher to Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, known for his comprehensive knowledge of astronomy and its superstitious ancestor, astrology, concurred with this point. In his book entitled ‘Speculum,’ he calculated the apparent movement of the stars and came to the same conclusion arrived at by other astronomers, including Roger Bacon and Albumasar; that, on the 24th of December, both prior to and during the beginning of the Christian era, Virgo rose over the eastern horizon at midnight.
Charles Francois Dupuis adds:
‘It is a fact, which is independent of all hypothesis, independent of all the consequences, which I shall draw from it, that at the precise hour of midnight on the 25th December, in the centuries, when Christianity made its appearance, the celestial sign, which rose at the horizon, and the ascendant of which presided at the opening of the new solar revolution, was the Virgin of the constellations. It is another fact, that the God Sun, born at the winter solstice, is re-united with her and surrounds her with his lustre at the time of our feast of the Assumption, or the re-union of mother and son. And still another fact is that, when she comes out heliacally from the solar rays at the moment, when we celebrate her appearance in the World, or her Nativity. I shall not examine the motive, which caused these feasts to be fixed on these days: it is sufficient for me to say, that those are three facts, which no reasoning can destroy, and out of which an attentive observer, who is well acquainted with the genius of the ancient mystagogues, may draw great consequences…’
Dupuis goes on to say:
‘At all events it is certain, that this same Virgin, the only one who can become mother without ceasing to be a virgin, fills the three great functions of the Virgin, the mother of Christ, be it in the birth of her son, or in that of her own, or in her conjunction with him in the Heavens. It is chiefly her function as mother, which we shall examine here. It is but natural to suppose, that those who personified the Sun, and who made it pass through the various ages of the human life, who imagined for it a series of wonderful adventures, sung either in poems or narrated in legends, did not fail to draw its horoscope, the same as horoscopes were drawn for other children at the precise moment of their birth. This was especially the custom of the Chaldeans and of the Magi. Afterwards this feast was celebrated under the name of “dies natalis” or the feast of the birthday. Now, the celestial Virgin, who presided at the birth of the God Day personified, was presumed to be his mother, and thus fulfil the prophecy of the astrologer, who had said: “A Virgin shall conceive and bring forth,” in other words, that she shall give birth to the God Sun, like the Virgin of Sais: from this idea are derived the pictures, which are delineated in the sphere of the Magi, of which Abulmazar has given us a description, and of which Kirker, Selden, the famous Pic, Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, Blaën, Stoffler and a great many others have spoken. We are extracting here the passage from Abulmazar. “We see,” says Abulmazar, “in the first decan, or in the ten first degrees of the sign of the Virgin, according to the traditions of the ancient Persians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, of Herime and of Aesculapius, a young maiden, called in the Persian language ‘Seclenidos de Darzanma,’ a name, when translated into Arabian by that of ‘Adrenedefa,’ signifies a chaste, pure and immaculate virgin, of a handsome figure, agreeable countenance, long hair and modest mien. She holds in her hand two ears of corn; she sits on a throne; she nourishes, and suckles a babe, which some call Jesus, and the Greeks call Christ.” The Persian sphere, published by Scaliger as a sequel of his notes, on Manilius, gives about the same description of the celestial Virgin; but there is no mention made of the child, which she suckles. It places alongside of her a man, which can only be Bootes, called the foster-father of the son of the Virgin Isis, or of Horus’.
The ancient link between the constellation of Virgo and the solar god can be established beyond any reasonable doubt if one observes the wealth of murals and other artistic works left behind in Egypt. In the temple at Dendera there is a representation of the zodiac with the constellation of Virgo depicted as a woman bearing a sheath of wheat. This image is still the symbol for the modern astrological sign of Virgo, and so based on this ancient (50 BCE approx.) inscription we see that the virgin, as represented by the female bearing a sheath of wheat, has antiquity behind it.
Moreover, Isis was described as the ‘Great Virgin,’ whose mythos probably contributed to the creation of the Virgin Mary of the Christian religion. There is little doubt regarding this fact, as Isis was not only represented as the virgin and the ‘Queen of Heaven’, but also as the mother of the son of the sun god Osiris. As stated earlier, the three of them constituted one of the most ancient trinities, symbolized later by the Pythagorean triangle, in which the hypotenuse (long side) symbolic of the divine child, was calculated as equal in length to the combination of the two shorter sides, which represented the divine or archetypal parents. The Christian trinity, however, erased any trace of the natural feminine principle embodied within the original trinity, which included the archetypal mother, and replaced it with a ghost. Herein lies the distortion of natural mythology by the unnatural and irrational theology. Whilst the ancient mythical systems were symbolically rooted in the real (mother, father and child, for example), theology is grounded in the unreal – father, son and ghost-daddy. Ancient mythographers took what was around them and created beautiful symbolic tales reflecting the symmetry of nature, and its principles, whereas the theologians attempted to usurp such symbolism and create their own universe from purely fictitious and credulous foundations.
Discussing the credulity of the theological interpretations of mythological concepts as it relates to the Virgin Mary, Dr Alvin Boyd Khun said:
‘Pagan representation of abstract truth exalted the mothers of the sun-Christs to the rank of goddesses. None are human. Christianity fell into the allegory, or fell for the allegory when it took Mary (Maia, Maya, Meri, Moira, Myrrha, Miriam, etc.) to be a human girl. It has vainly tried to correct the error by deifying her’.
The nineteenth-century religious scholar and author J.M Roberts, quoting from the works of Charles F. Dupuis, in which Dupuis described the astrological architecture of the famous Cathedral in France, Notre Dame, adds:
‘The Virgin of the Zodiac which should have occupied that panel, is placed in the large central panel of the door, holding in her arms an infant effigy or representation of the new born Sun, which, according to all the so-called heathen systems of religion was supposed to be born of the zodiacal Virgin, at midnight, at the winter solstice (December 25th), an event which Christians celebrate, in concert with the heathens of every hue, or condition of savagery or civilization, at that precise hour. The church of Notre Dame or ” Our Lady,” stands on the site of a sacred grove of the ancient Gallic Druids, consecrated to the mother goddess of the northern nations; afterward appropriated by the Roman conquerors of Gaul as the site of a temple consecrated to Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty, and now consecrated to Mary, the Christian successor of the same zodiacal virgin mother of the Sun’.
Keeping in mind that a symbol is composed of various subjective and objective overlapping components, we must not rest upon the astronomical aspects or components of the symbol of the virgin-born sun, alone. It is insufficient to say that the reason the mythographers wrote that the sun god was born of a virgin was because the sun following the winter solstice rose under the sign of Virgo. For the sun also rises out of the ‘feminine’ waters of the ocean upon the horizon each day, and its essence resides within the ‘lunar mother’ at night, only to be born again in the morning. The logical, yet allegorical principle of the perfect man being born of the perfect woman is also a matter to be considered. A perfect seed can only reach its full and perfect potential if it is planted in pure virgin soil, and so the solar Christs of antiquity were said to be born from uncorrupted mothers.
- Lynn Thorndike. A History of Magic and Experimental Science. Vol. 2. Columbia University Press. (1923). p. 695.
- Charles Francois Dupuis. The Origins of All Religious Worship. 235.
- pp. 235-236.
- Neugebauer & Richard A. Parker. Egyptian Astronomical Texts, Vol. 3: Decans, Planets, Constellations and Zodiacs. Egyptian Exploration Society. (1971). p. 203.
- Kathryn A. Bard. Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. (2005). p. 299.
- Alvin Boyd Khun. Shadow of the 3rd Century; A Revaluation of Christianity. 383.
- M Roberts. Antiquity Unveiled. Oriental Publishing Co. (1894). p. 54.