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The Saturn Myth

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1 The Saturn Myth on Sat Sep 08, 2012 6:59 pm


The Saturn Myth

The Saturn theory offers a radically different approach to understanding the recent history of the solar system.1
Briefly summarized, the theory posits that the neighboring planets only
recently settled into their current orbits, the Earth formerly being
involved in a unique planetary configuration of sorts together with
Saturn, Venus, and Mars. As the terrestrial skywatcher looked upwards,
he saw a spectacular and awe-inspiring apparition dominating the
celestial landscape. At the heart of heaven the massive gas giant
Saturn appeared fixed atop the North polar axis, with Venus and Mars set
within its center like two concentric orbs (see figure one, where Venus
is the green orb and Mars the innermost red orb). The theory holds
that the origin of ancient myth and religion—indeed the origin of the
primary institutions of civilization itself—is inextricably linked to
the appearance and evolutionary history of this unique congregation of

Figure One

does one go about documenting this extraordinary claim? Extraordinary
claims, it is said, require extraordinary evidential support in order to
believed. While I believe the Saturn theory can meet this crucial
test, it goes without saying that a discussion of the various lines of
evidence pointing to the polar configuration would require several
volumes in order to make a fully compelling case. In this brief
overview I can do no more than offer a small sampling of the relevant

the truth be known, the Saturn theory suffers from an embarrassment of
riches with respect to evidence which supports the central tenets of the
theory. Early descriptions of the "sun" and various planets from
Mesopotamia and elsewhere describe them as occupying "impossible"
positions and moving in a manner which defies astronomical reality (as
currently understood, that is). The ancient sun god, for example, is
said to "rise" and "set" at the heart of heaven upon a sacred mountain.
The planet Venus is described as standing at the "heart of heaven" or
within the crescent of Sin. Mars is pointed to as a principal cause of
"eclipses" and other natural disasters.
While not one of these scenarios is possible given the current order of
the solar system, each is consistent with the history of the respective
planets in the polar configuration as reconstructed by Talbott and

testimony from ancient myth and folklore is adamant that the respective
planets once moved on radically different orbits and rained catastrophe
from the skies, even if that message has been overlooked and
3 by
virtually everyone. Thus, numerous cultures tell of the time when
different suns ruled the heavens. This belief was especially common in
the New World: "The idea that the sun was not eternal was shared by
other American Indian tribes so widely that we consider it must have
been part of their belief long before any high culture had arisen in the

The Popol Vuh, lauded as the "Mayan Bible," attests to the same idea. There a previous sun god is described as follows:

a man was the sun when it showed itself…It showed itself when it was
born and remained fixed in the sky like a mirror. Certainly it was not
the same sun which we see, it is said in their old tales."

widespread are traditions which report that a dragon-like monster once
eclipsed the sun and brought the world to the brink of destruction.
Countless cultures preserve memory of the terrifying time when Venus
assumed a serpentine form
6, or when a spectacular conjunction of planets dominated the celestial landscape.7
Such traditions can be documented from one culture to another and, upon
systematic analysis, reveal numerous analogous structural details, a
telltale sign that they were inspired by common experience of
spectacular celestial events rather than creative imagination and

addition to the remarkably detailed and consistent testimony from
ancient myth and folklore, the artistic record likewise provides
compelling evidence that the planets only recently moved on radically
different orbits. Consider, for example, the three images depicted in
figure two. As I have documented
such images are ubiquitous in the prehistoric rock art of every
inhabited continent. Hitherto they have been interpreted as drawings of
the Sun by virtually all leading authorities on ancient art and
religion, this despite the fact that they do not have any obvious
resemblance to the current solar orb.

Figure two

It is
noteworthy that the ancient sun-god was depicted in the very same
manner by the earliest civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Figure
three, for example, shows an Akkadian seal in which the Shamash disc is
represented as an "eye-like" object, as in the first image in figure
two. Figure four shows the Shamash disc as an eight-pointed star or
wheel. Figure five shows the Shamash disc as an eight-petalled flower.
Numerous other variations upon these common themes could be provided,
all impossible to reconcile with the appearance of the current solar

Figure three

Figure four

Figure five

It is
at this point that the researcher is presented with a theoretical
dilemma, the successful resolution of which promises to unlock the
secrets of our prehistoric past. If one chooses to dismiss the specific
and consistent imagery associated with these ancient solar images as
the product of creative imagination—the typical approach of conventional
art historians—one is also forced to dismiss the equally widespread
testimony that different suns prevailed in ancient times. This approach
has little to recommend it, for it involves nothing less than turning a
deaf ear to the testimony of our ancestors and, in any case, has thus
far produced precious few insights into the origin of ancient

alternative is equally unthinkable, for it involves accepting these
endlessly repeated images as accurate drawings of the ancient "sun",
albeit one different in nature and appearance than that currently
prevailing. As bizarre as this possibility appears at first glance, it
does have much to recommend it. The ancient Babylonians were careful to
distinguish Shamash from the current sun, identifying the god with the
distant planet Saturn.
It was this little-known datum which led Velikovsky to consider the
possibility that Saturn formerly appeared more prominent, perhaps even
serving as a sun-like object for the satellite Earth.
10 Velikovsky's
seminal insight, in turn, served as the theoretical foundation for the
subsequent researches of Talbott, Cardona, myself and others who
succeeded in documenting the basic claim that Saturn once dominated the
heavens, a fact reflected in the otherwise puzzling prominence accorded
this planet in the earliest pantheons

support for the alternative "Saturn theory" comes upon considering the
representation of the planet Venus in ancient art. A straightforward
interpretation of the various images superimposed upon the "solar" disc
in figure two would understand the first as an "eye"; the second as an
eight-spoked wheel or "star"; and the third as an eight-petalled
flower. Now it is a remarkable fact that the planet Venus is
consistently associated with these very forms from one ancient culture
to another. The ancient Sumerians, for example, represented Venus (as
Inanna) as an eye-goddess, eight-pointed star, and eight-petalled flower
or rosette. Consider the figurine represented in figure six, one of
thousands discovered by Max Mallowan during his excavations of the
Inanna-precinct at Uruk. Similar "eye-goddesses" have been found
throughout the ancient world, from Neolithic Europe to India. Figure
seven shows an early cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period (c. 3000
BCE), depicting Inanna as an "eye-goddess" alongside her familiar
eight-petalled rosette.

Figure six

Figure seven

very same images are prominent in the sacred iconography surrounding the
Akkadian Ishtar. Thus, figure eight shows Ishtar/Venus together with
an eight-spoked wheel, while figure nine shows Ishtar/Venus together
with an eight-pointed star. Figure ten shows Ishtar in conjunction with
a rosette-like star.

Figure eight

Figure nine

Figure ten

fact that the planet Venus was associated with the very same forms in
Mesoamerica, where the observation and worship of that planet formed an
obsession, strongly supports the conclusion that such images have their
origin in the ancient appearance of the planet. The same conclusion is
supported by the fact that cultures as disparate as those of the
Australian aborigines, Maya, Polynesians, and Chinese described Venus by
epithets signifying "Great Eye," "Great Star," and "luminous flower."

are we to explain this curious state of affairs whereby Venus is
associated with the very symbols seemingly depicted in prehistoric
"sun"-images? Surely not by reference to the current solar system, for
Venus does not even vaguely resemble an "eye," eight-pointed "star," or
"flower." Yet if Venus only recently appeared superimposed against the
backdrop of Saturn/Shamash, as per the reconstruction offered by Talbott
and myself in figure one, the mystery is explained at once.
Subsequently, upon further evolution of the polar configuration, Venus
assumed a radiant appearance, sending forth streamers across the face of
the ancient sun-god (see figure eleven). This situation is reflected
in the latter two images in figure three.

Figure eleven

Planets in Ancient Lore

the turn of the century it was widely held that the central themes of
the most ancient myths, telling of the Creation, Deluge, Golden Age,
Dragon combat, etc. were all "nature" myths describing the stereotypical
behavior of the two primary celestial bodies, typically in allegorical
or euhemeristic fashion.
The Saturn theory offers a very similar conclusion, with the
all-important proviso that the planets formerly dominated the celestial
landscape rather than the current Sun and Moon.

the earliest gods and mythical figures of the various cultures are
celestial in nature is easily shown. The Sumerian goddess Inanna,
explicitly identified with the planet Venus already at the dawn of the
historical period (c. 3300 BCE), is a case in point and might well serve
as an exemplar for comparative analysis. Virtually every ancient
culture will feature a goddess with notable structural affinities to
Inanna, although the identification with Venus is not always preserved.
The Skidi Pawnee Indians of the American central plains, for example,
celebrate the wondrous deeds of the primeval goddess cu-piritta-ka,
identified with Venus.
It was her union with the warrior-god u-pirikucu, explicitly identified
with the planet Mars, which signaled the crowning event of Creation:

second god Tirawahat placed in the heavens was Evening Star, known to
the white people as Venus…She was a beautiful woman. By speaking and
waving her hands she could perform wonders. Through this star and
Morning Star [Mars] all things were created. She is the mother of the

the Skidi traditions attest, the planet Mars played a prominent role in
ancient myth and religion. Wherever one looks, one will find the red
planet accorded a numinous power seemingly out of proportion to its
present modest appearance. The Sumerian war-god Nergal, early on
identified with the planet Mars, forms a pivotal figure in comparative
analysis. Thus, it can be shown that war-gods and warrior-heroes from
every corner of the globe share numerous characteristics in common with
the Sumerian god, including some of a strikingly specific nature.
To take but one mythical theme of hundreds available: The Makiritare
Indians of the Amazonian rain forest tell of the time when the hero
Ahishama, identified with the red planet, climbed a giant stairway to
the sky.
16 The fact that a very similar story was related of Nergal in ancient Mesopotamia17 suggests that the mythical theme originated in objective historical events involving the red planet.18
Yet one looks in vain for a satisfactory explanation of this particular
mythical theme given the current order of the solar system, wherein a
celestial stairway is not to be found. Neolithic rock art, however,
offers countless examples of "stairway"-like appendages extending from
the ancient sun god, thereby complementing and helping to illuminate the
universal myth of a luminous stairway spanning the heavens (See figure
twelve). If we are to be faithful to the evidence, the most logical
conclusion is that the stairway to heaven was a visible apparition
associated with the ancient sun god during a particular phase of the
polar configuration.

Figure twelve

Towards a Science of Mythology

In an
attempt to develop a rigorous scientific methodology for the study of
ancient myth, the Saturnists would offer a series of basic groundrules
deemed to be essential if researchers are to discover the original
significance and fundamental message of ancient mythical traditions.
First and foremost, perhaps, is the general proposition that ancient
myth constitutes an invaluable and generally trustworthy source for
reconstructing a valid history of our solar system. Far from being a
leap of faith, this fundamental finding of the Saturn theory derives
from several decades of extensive research into ancient myth and can be
demonstrated using the normal methods of logic and evidence

second basic tenet would emphasize the comparative method. Simply
stated, no ancient myth or primary cultural institution is fully
understandable in isolation. Egyptian myth, to take but one example, is
essentially incomprehensible apart from detailed analysis of analogous
themes and motifs from ancient Mesopotamia and the New World, both of
which provide the indispensable link to the early astronomical
traditions that are all but lost in Egypt itself (Horus's
identification with the Morning Star and Mars offers a notable exception
in this regard and forms a close analogue to the Pawnee traditions
surrounding the red planet). Hathor's identification with the "Eye of
Ra," for example, can only be understood by reference to the widespread
idea whereby Venus once formed the central "eye" of the ancient sun
god. Note further that Hathor's name, which signifies "House of Horus,"
captures perfectly the essence of the relationship of Venus and Mars as
illustrated in figure one. The planet-goddess Hathor, as the "Eye of
Ra," literally housed the warrior Horus.

third basic tenet of the Saturn theory holds that ancient myth and
ritual typically commemorate extraordinary events witnessed by human
beings. If myth constitutes a creative interpretation of the traumatic
celestial events in pseudo-historical terms—the flooding of the world, a
great hero's consorting with a beautiful goddess—ritual originated as a
purposeful and remarkably faithful attempt to reenact the fateful
events in question. Mars' climbing of the celestial stairway, for
example, was reenacted in countless sacred rites throughout the ancient
The archetypal rite of the sacred marriage, attested already at the
dawn of history in Mesopotamia, purports to commemorate the king's union
with the planet Venus (Inanna). The original inspiration for this
bizarre rite, as I have theorized, was the spectacular conjunction of
Venus and Mars in prehistoric times.

fourth basic tenet of the Saturn theory holds that historical evidence
together with consistent (or widespread) human testimony must be given
credence, even if a ready explanation of such testimony is not
immediately obvious or appears to contradict current scientific
opinion. Velikovsky's admonition in the preface to Worlds in Collision
serves as a rallying cry here: "If, occasionally, historical evidence
does not square with formulated laws, it should be remembered that a law
is but a deduction from experience and experiment, and therefore laws
must conform with historical facts, not facts with laws."

famous controversy over the likelihood that rocks (meteors) could fall
from the sky, a possibility denied by several of the best minds of the
th and 19th centuries,
might well serve as a prototype here. Formerly dismissed as too
ridiculous to merit serious discussion, the fact that meteorites
occasionally fall to Earth from heaven was perfectly well known to the
ancient Sumerians. All but lost for several millennia, such knowledge
is once again commonplace amongst schoolboys everywhere.

instructive is the on-going controversy over the possibility that rocks
from Mars could somehow find their way to the Earth, fervently denied
by various leading authorities until quite recently (c. 1987). The
eventual triumph of the Martian meteorite hypothesis is yet another
classic example of the leading paradigms of the modern scientific Age
being instantly overturned by a series of anomalous findings.
Such examples could be multiplied ad infinitum. Science, much like
religion, proves to be notoriously malleable in this regard: What is
considered impossible or fantastic by one generation might well come to
be accepted by future generations unencumbered by similar prejudices.

fifth basic tenet of the Saturn theory holds that recurring anomalies in
ancient myth and tradition offer a key to discovery. Certainly it is
most unlikely that one culture would invent traditions of fire-breathing
dragons (or witches) that once threatened to eclipse the ancient sun
god. Yet one finds the very same improbable motif from one ancient
culture to another, yet another sure indication that common experience
of spectacular celestial events holds the key to a scientific analysis
of ancient mythical traditions.

sixth central tenet of the Saturn theory holds that the history and
evolution of the polar configuration constitutes nothing less than the
history of the gods. The "birth" of the warrior-hero, the war-like
rampage of the mother goddess, the "death" or "eclipse" of the primeval
sun god—and a thousand different themes alike—all have their inspiration
in the spectacular events associated with the evolution of the polar

seventh basic tenet of the Saturn theory holds that future discoveries
vis a vis the geology and geomorphology of the respective planets will
act to either support or undermine the model. For it stands to reason
that, if the extraordinary events described here have any basis in
reality, such events must have left an indelible mark on the planets
that participated in the polar configuration. It is also expected that
some of these telltale signs of participation in the polar configuration
will prove to be difficult, if not impossible, to explain by any other

A Fundamental Objection to the Saturn Theory

most obvious objection to the Saturn theory is its apparent
incompatibility with conventional astrophysics. This is indeed a
formidable objection, one deserving of serious attention and,
ultimately, a valid answer, ideally in terms of offering a viable
physical model for the polar configuration. While promising steps
towards achieving a viable physical model have been achieved (the models
of Thornhill and Peratt, for example), much work remains to be done in
this area, preferably by scientists trained in the requisite fields of
astronomy, physics, and mechanics. Personally, I remain confident that
an answer will be found if for no other reason than that it is highly
improbable that a theory with so much historical evidence in its favor
could prove entirely illusory.

the history of science teaches us anything, it is that there is ample
precedent for reserving judgment on an historical thesis well supported
by evidence but lacking a viable physical model. Darwin's theory of
evolution, to take a particularly notorious example, languished for
decades under the objection that it lacked a viable model of heredity
which could explain how the much needed genetic changes could originate
and come to be fixed (rather than blended, as per earlier models of
heredity). Already by the time of Darwin, there was a wealth of
evidence that evolution had occurred—how else are we to explain the fact
that modern whales occasionally show traces of vestigial hind limbs and
hip girdles?—but a viable model of heredity was not yet at hand, to say
nothing of a chemical model for genetic mutation or embryonic
differentiation. Even today, well over a hundred years later, many of
the most fundamental questions surrounding the biochemical mechanisms of
evolution remain unanswerable. We still have little understanding of
how the various phyla originated or why some species proved successful
while others became extinct. In the meantime, however, while modern
biology awaits a solution to these truly perplexing and formidable
mysteries, no informed scientist can doubt the historical reality that
biological evolution has occurred. The question is how did life evolve
and by what precise means? A similar situation surrounds the Saturn
theory, in my opinion. Here, too, the historical evidence is
unequivocal that various planets once participated in a polar
configuration and wrecked havoc with the inner solar system. The
question is how we are to understand this history from the standpoint of


While I would not presume to speak for David Talbott or Dwardu Cardona,
the two senior pioneers in this field of study, it is nevertheless the
case that the three of us share similar viewpoints in many respects.

2. For a thorough discussion of these issues, see E. Cochrane, Martian Metamorphoses (Ames, 1997).

This word, coined by Samuel Butler, describes the propensity of some to
stick their heads in the sand in order to ignore the obvious.

4. C. Burland, The Gods of Mexico (New York, 1967), p. 140.

5. D. Goetz & S. Morley, Popol Vuh (Norman, 1972), p. 188.

6. I.
Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (New York, 1950), pp. 162-191; D.
Talbott, "The Comet Venus," Aeon 3:5 (1994), pp. 5-51; D. Cardona,
"Cometary Venus," in D. Pearlman ed., Stephen J. Gould and Immanuel
Velikovsky (Forest Hills, 1996), pp. 442-466; E. Cochrane, "On Comets
and Kings," Aeon 2:1 (1989), pp. 53-75.

7. See the discussion in D. Pankenier, "The Bamboo Annals Revisited…Chronology of Early Zhou, Part 1," BSOAS 55 (1992), p. 281.

8. E.
Cochrane, "Suns and Planets in Neolithic Rock Art," Aeon 3:2 (1993),
pp. 51-63; see also the discussion in E. Cochrane, "Venus, Mars…and
Saturn," Chronology and Catastrophism Review (1998:2), pp. 16-20.

Already common knowledge by the time of the astronomical reports sent to
Assurbanipal and other Assyrian kings (c. 700 BCE), the identification
of Saturn and Shamash likely goes back to the first systematic attempts
at monitoring the heavens. See here the discussion in U.
Koch-Westenholz, Mesopotamian Astrology (Copenhagen, 1995), pp. 122-123.

10. I. Velikovsky, Mankind in Amnesia (Garden City, 1982), pp. 99ff.

11. E. Cochrane, "Suns and Planets in Neolithic Rock Art," Aeon 3:2 (1993), pp. 51-63.

12. The so-called solar school of mythology championed by F.M. Muller and others.

13. J. Murie, "Ceremonies of the Pawnee," Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 27 (Cambridge, 1981), p. 39.

14. Ibid.

15. See E. Cochrane, Martian Metamorphoses: The Planet Mars in Ancient Myth and Religion (Ames, 1997).

16. M. de. Civrieux, Watunna: An Orinoco Creation Cycle (San Francisco, 1980), pp. 113-114.

S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford, 1991), p. 171. See also the
discussion in E. von Weiher, Der babylonische Gott Nergal (Berlin,
1971), p. 52; J. V. Wilson, The Rebel Lands (London, 1979) p. 98; and O.
Gurney, "The Sultantepe Tablets," Anatolian Studies 10 (1960), pp. 125,

18. E. Cochrane, "The Stairway to Heaven," Aeon 5:1 (1997), pp. 69-78.

See, for example, the numerous rites involving the symbolic ascent of
the polar axis or World Tree in M. Eliade, Shamanism (Princeton, 1964),
pp. 487-494.

20. E. Cochrane, "The Female Star," Aeon 5:3 (1998), pp. 49-64.

21. See the discussion in E. Cochrane, "Martian Meteorites in Ancient Myth and Modern Science," Aeon 4:2 (1995), pp. 57-73

See also: A Timeless Age in a Purple Haze

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