6. Cancer & Leo

The Heavens Declare: constellations as prophecy


1. Virgo & Libra
2. Scorpio & Sagittarius

3. Capricorn & Aquarius
4. Pisces & Aries

5. Taurus & Gemini
6. Cancer & Leo


Issachar / Cancer (Gen 49:14-15)

The third "chapter" of the Book of the Second Coming was called by the Egyptians Klaria, "cattle-fold". In Arabic it is called Al Sartan ("who holds" — the same meaning as the Syriac name). The Akkadian name was shared with its month, called Su-kul-na ("the seizer" or "pos­sessor of seed"). Again, in Greek the name was Karkinos ("encircling" or "hold­ing"), which is also the meaning of its Latin name, Cancer (Khan-Ker is "inn-encir­cled" or "rest-secured" in Arabic); from this ‘circle’ derives its ancient and modern image, the Crab. A crab, in its chang­ing of smaller shells for larger — weaker bodies for bet­ter — is a not inept portrait of the saints of the resurrection, who lay off "the body of this death" to be "clothed upon with our house which is from heav­en". A similar meta­phor was used in Egypt and India, of a (dung) bee­tle (Scara­bæus), shown hold­ing the ball in which it has deposited its eggs. So, the grub which spent its past living in literal dung, meta­morphosized into an iridescent creature of flight — soiled only in its care of its own young. Another, more ancient Egyp­tian image of this sign was of Herma­nu­bis, Hermes with the head of an ibis or hawk. My­tholo­gy identifies this Crab as that sea-creature which bit the foot of Hercu­les as he battled Hydra, the Lernæan monster; in typol­ogy, Jesus con­quers the body of death; for all the pains which creation caused Him — and we all put Him on the Cross — Jesus still brings that creation to rest.

Cancer's brightest star is in what is now the tail, called Tegmine ("hold­ing"). In the larger, lower "claw" is Acubene ("hiding place"). Another of its stars is called in Arabic Ma'alaph ("as­sembled thou­sands") and Al Hima­rein ("the lambs"). Con­tained within the ‘fold’ is a bright nebula now called "the Beehive", whose ancient name was Præsepe, "a multitude" or "off­spring". The Romans saw it as a manger within a camp, recalling back to the iden­tification of Cancer as a Cattle-fold. Above and below this nebula are the stars Asellus Bareas and Asellus Australis, "the northern and the south­ern ass" — it is this which tells us that Cancer is linked to the tribe of Issa­char ("recom­pense"). In Gen 49:14 we read: “Issachar is a strong don­key, lying down between two burdens [or sheep­folds — Jdg 5:16]”; the link is furthered in Deut 33:18‑19, when we consid­er the tents and wealth of cara­van­ing mer­chants. Of its 83 stars, a mere 8 could be seen by the pre-Flood patriarchs.

As in the decans of Gemini, all the con­stel­la­tions of the "Can­cer" group have had their original im­ages distorted. Just as "the Cat­tle-Fold" was cor­rupted into "the Crab", so the first decan was original­ly "the Lesser Fold" — known to us as "the Little Dip­per", or Ursa Minor ("the Little Bear"). An­oth­er Latin name was Septen­triones, the "seven which re­volve" — from which the Romans arrived at their word for ‘north; the Arabs noted its rotation in the name Ogilah, "going round". Other names were Kochab ("the star" or "waiting the com­ing"), Al Pherkadain ("the calves" or "the re­deemed"), Al Gedi ("the kid"), and Al Kaid ("the assembled"). Obviously, the original meaning had nothing to do with bears. We might better find in these Seven Stars the Seven Church­es of John's Revelation, gathered around the Throne. The confu­sion with a Bear arose from the sim­ilarity between the Hebrew words for "fold" (dohver) and "bear" (dohv) — a simi­larity re­tained in both Arabic and Persian. Thus the Greeks replaced the fold with the bear — an obvi­ous cor­ruption, as one glance at the smaller Bear's freak­ishly long tail proves, ridic­u­lously extend­ed to end at the Pole Star.

In­deed, the Pole Star is the brightest of the constel­lation's stars, called Al Ruccaba ("turned" or "ridden on"); it is Cyno­sure in Greek, after which the entire constel­la­tion was called (the Greeks took the name from Mes­opotamia, An-nas-sur-ra, meaning something like "on high"[1]). As we saw, the pivot of heaven, the pole, was once possessed by the Dragon, but now resides within the haven of the Righteous, who “possesses the gate of his enemies. Next in bright­ness is Kochab ("await­ing Him who cometh"). Another star is Arctos ("the strong­hold of the saved"), from which derives ‘arctic. There are now 24 stars in this sign, of which 7 are original.

Beneath the Lesser Flock we find "the Greater Fold" (cf. Lk 12:32). We call the sign "the Big Dipper", and more formally as Ursa Major, "The Great Bear". The seven bright­est stars were called by the rabbis Ash, which in the Bible (cf. Job 9:9) is trans­lated as "the Bear and her train", or sometimes rendered "Arcturus and his sons" (as in the third decan of Virgo, ‘Arctu­rus’ means "He cometh"). It is also called Al Naish (A. "the assembled togeth­er"). The Egyp­tian image was of a swine-headed woman holding a plow, and named Fent-Har, "The Serpent-horrifier"; when we recall how violently a pig tears up the earth, and how dan­ge­rous it is to snakes, then both the plow and the name become understandable. The Greeks said the nymph Callisto was transformed into this bear by Juno, but this is an etymological confusion, since Caulae is a semitic root meaning, once again, "sheep­fold".

The brightest star is on the ‘lip’ of the Dipper, called Dubheh in Hebrew, meaning "a herd of cattle" (akin to "security" and to the Akkadian word for "wealth"); its Ara­bic name is Dubhe (A. "flock" — anoth­er name for the entire constel­lation). Next, directly below, is Merach (H. "the flock", and A. "pur­chased"). Directly to the left is Phaeda ("guarded" or "num­bered"), and the star above, completing the square, was probably called El Kaphrah (A. "protected", H. "ran­somed"). Just to the left along the ‘handle’ of the Dipper is Alioth ("she-goat", as that held by the Shepherd, third decan of Tau­rus); half-way down the handle is star Mizar ("separate"), immedi­ately next is Al Cor ("lamb"), and at the tip is Benet Naish (A. "daughters of the assem­bly"). Other, unidenti­fied stars had names meaning "the latter flock", "the ap­pointed sheep-fold", "multitude", "assembled", "sepa­rated", and "band of travellers". Of the 87 stars currently visible in this sign, only 18 are original.

The final decan of Cancer is called Argo (another word meaning "band of travellers"). It shares its name with the ship of Jason, who reco­vered the lost treasure from the coveting ser­pent; this myth was imposed upon the origi­nal sign which told a similar story, of Him who defeated the dragon, dried the seas and made a way of crossing for the redeemed (Is 51:9‑11). The Ship is shown as having two galley decks, each with a ram's-head prow; the stern ends in the tail of a fish. The Egyptian image preserved from Dendera is called Shes-en-Fent ("re­joi­cing upon the serpent"): a mighty corralled ox, wearing around its neck the Egyptian cross of life. The Persian image shows three virgins, stroll­ing in safety. At the keel, the most prominent star is the helmsman Canopus ("the posses­sion of Him who cometh" — symbolized else­where as a bountiful urn). Other stars have names meaning "the branch", "the de­sired", "abun­dance", "pos­session", and "the released who trav­el". Of the Ship's 64 stars, 25 were in the original design.

In Isaiah (60:4‑5,9) we have the same pic­tures:

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gath­er together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy, because the abun­­dance of the sea shall be turned to you, [and] the wealth of the Gen­tiles shall come to you. . . . Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; and the ships of Tar­shish will come first, to bring your sons from afar, their sil­ver and their gold with them, to the name of the Lord your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, be­cause He has glori­fied you.

And again (Is 35:10): “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

And so, in Cancer, the true picture is of the safety of the Shepherd's Fold which hides the multitude of lambs. We have the Lesser Fold, the assembly of the redeemed, harboring those who partook in the heavenly call­ing, who awaited a heavenly city ("Ursa Minor"); it circles round the heavens' center, which is no longer the hold of the Dragon but now the strong­hold of the little flock. Again, we find the Seven Stars (cf. Rev 1:16,20), the appointed sheepfold of the latter flock, purchased, sep­arat­ed out, num­bered and guarded ("Ursa Major"). Finally, we find the two folds again represented in the two decks of that Ark which plows the seas, filled with riches and freemen (Argo). It seems reason­able to iden­tify the Little Flock with redeemed Israel (cf. Lk 12:32), and the Greater Fold with the Church and its redeemed gentiles (cf. Jn 10:16).

Judah / Leo (Gen 49:8-12)

Finally, the last of all the signs, and the last "chapter" the Book of the Second Com­ing, deals with Leo, or in Hebrew Arieh, the hunting Lion. In Syriac the name is Aryo ("the rend­ing lion") and in Arabic Al Asad ("the lion leaping"). This Lion is treading upon the con­stel­lation of the fleeing serpent, Hydra. John (Rev 5:5) has recorded this truth: “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed . . . Again, in Hosea (13:7,8) we find that God “will be unto them as a lion. I will rend the caul of their heart. I will devour them like a lion. The Egyptian image is of a lion crush­ing a serpent (Hydra) which has a bird (Cor­vus) perched and feeding on its body; below, a fe­male figure holds out two cups (Crat­er); knem, the word for "con­quered", is written under­neath. The Egyp­tian name of this con­stel­lation is Pi-mentekeon, meaning "the pouring out", as of wrath. At the heart of the lion is the bright­est star, Regulus ("treading under foot"). Next, at the end of the tail, is Denebola ("the hasten­ing judge"). In the mane is Al Giebha ("the exalta­tion"), and on the back is Zosma ("shining forth"). Other stars have names mean­ing "the judge cometh who seizes", "the pun­ishing from the li­on", and "the enemy put down". A fi­nal star is Sarcam, meaning "joining" or ‘the joint, indi­cating the bound­ary be­tween the begin­ning and end of the con­stel­la­tions. Of the Lion's 95 visible stars, only 22 were seen in the original design. The link between Judah and the Lion is too obvious to need to expand upon.

Beneath the Lion, and the Cattle-Fold which is Cancer, the leviathan Hydra twists toward the Prince Who Crushes (Canis Minor). Hydra mean­s "he is abhor­red", and just as the levia­than Cetus is the lar­gest of the con­stella­tions, so Hydra, "Levia­than, the crooked ser­pent", is the lon­gest, spanning almost a third of the equator of the heavens; it seems likely that this is the dragon which swept away a third of the stars from heav­en. The Lion attacks this monster, mirroring Psalm 74: “God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth, breaking the heads of the dragons in the waters . . . The Hydra of myth had a hun­dred regener­ating heads, and was slain only with the use of fire. Its major star is at the heart of the mon­ster, called Al Phard (A. "put away"); an­other star, probably in its head, is Minchar al Sugia ("the tearing of the deceiv­er"), and yet another is called Al Drian ("the abhor­red"). Sixteen of the 60 visible stars were seen in the sky of the pre-Flood night.

The second decan of the Lion is known as Crater, the Cup. This is the “cup of His indignation” (Rev 14:10), and as to its dregs, “all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out and drink them” — Ps 75:8 (cf. Rev 16:19). Of its 13 stars, only three were orig­i­nally seen, two at its base. In the Egyptian zodi­ac, the woman holding the two cups was called Her-ua, mean­ing "great enemy"; these cups would be the same two bright stars which go to make the base of the single cup, which is shown as wide and deep, embedded in the very body of the serpent. This is a mirror of the image of Rev 17:4, where the Great Harlot sits en­throned on the back of the scarlet beast, drinking from the cup of abominations.

Last of all the images is Corvus, or Oreb, the "Raven", shown feasting on the monstrous Hydra. The Egyptian name for this bird was Her-na, "the enemy-failing". The biblical image is well-formed of unclean birds feasting on the wicked: David (1S 17:46) promises to Goliath that “I will smite thee, and take thy head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air . . .; Proverbs (30:17) tells us that the “eye that mocketh at his father . . . the ravens of the valley shall pick it out . . .; from The Revelation (19:18) we have the picture of an angel in the sun, “call­ing with a great voice to all the fowls and birds of prey to come and feast themselves on the flesh of the enemy. The primary star is in the eye, called Al Chibar (rendered either "the curse inflicted" or "joining together" — related to H. "accursed", Num 23:8). In the right wing is Al Goreb ("the raven"), and another star was called Minchar al Gorab ("the raven tearing to pieces"). Perhaps 6 of its 9 stars were seen in the first edition of the zodiac.

The story which the constellations of Leo tells, then, is of the actual van­quishing of the enemies of God. We find the rending Lion (Leo), the pierced deceiver (Hydra), the cup of wrath (Crater) and the dis­posing of the corpse (Corvus).

The final book — the Second Com­ing — deals with the com­ing Judge (Tau­rus), His dou­ble nature (Gemini), the taking of His inheri­tance (Cancer), and his final His tri­umph (Leo).

The first "book" deals with the First Coming (birth and death, adver­sity and vic­tory), the second with redemp­tion it­self (the bless­ings procured, ensured, await­ed, and real­ized,) and the third with the Sec­ond Coming (the judgment, reign, kingdom, and final vic­to­ry). In each book, the first chap­ter deals with the Person, the last with the victory, and the middle two with the grace and the conflict of the Savior. Again, the last decan of the first book — of the First Coming — shows the Dragon, cast down; the second-from-last decan of the second book — of the Redeemed — shows Levia­than, bound; the third-from-last decan of the third book — of the Sec­ond Com­ing — shows Hy­dra, the old Ser­pent, de­stroy­ed. Many such paral­lels may be found.

[1].Bullinger, p. 152.


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