Sagittarius, the Archer
Lyra, the Harp
Ara, the Altar or Burning Pyre
Draco, the Dragon Cast Down
THE TRIUMPHANT WARRIOR
“And in Thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies.”
Psalm 45:4, 5
These words are from one of the most glowing of the Psalms, in the writing of which David’s heart boiled with goodly words. It is marked: “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah – Maschil. A song of loves.” The lily-instrument, the master-performer, and the whole body of singers were called into requisition for its rendering. As a sublime ode it was to be given with the sublimest skill, for it relates to the loveliest of heroes in the loveliest of His aspects, offices, and relations to His people. This hero is none other than the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His royal majesty and glory subsequent to His resurrection, and as to be hereafter revealed. When on earth He was despised and rejected of men, but here He is celebrated as “beautiful, beautiful, above the sons of man,” endowed with every grace and invested with all authority and power. When on earth He was meek and non-resistant, not breaking so much as a bruised reed; but here He is contemplated and addressed as a mounted warrior, riding as a king, armed with bow and arrows, shooting down His enemies. His character here is that of the Mighty One, girding himself with honour and majesty, and going forth to victory. John, in his visions of the future, beheld “a white horse; and He that sat on him had a bow; and He went forth conquering and to conquer.” It is the same divine Hero, in the same character, offices, and work, in both instances. He has a crown, a throne, and a cause – the cause of righteousness over against injustice, usurpation, and tyranny; which cause He enforces with invincible majesty. His former sufferings are now turned to aromatic perfumes upon Him. Out of the ivory palaces He is gladdened with the sound of the harp. And in glory and triumph He rides forth unto victory, hailed by the daughters of kings and worshipped by the queen at His right hand arrayed in the gold of Ophir.
The picture is particularly magnificent. We cannot contemplate it without sharing the enthusiasm with which the inspired Psalmist sketched it. But the surprising thing is, that it is also in the Zodiac, and appears at full length in
THE SIGN OF SAGITTARIUS
In this sign we have again the double-natured Seed of the virgin, the Son of God as the Son of man. The figure is that of a mighty warrior with bow and arrows, riding prosperously. In all tongues he is named, as in our charts, the Archer, the Bowman, He who sends forth the arrow. In form he is the Centaur, the Piercer – not now, however, in connection with the Cross, far down toward the hidden regions, offering himself as a victim and sacrifice to satisfy the demands of justice, but lifted up on high, stationed on the path of the Sun, himself the Sun of Righteousness rising in His majesty.
The Greeks called him Cheiron, the Executer, the chief centaur, whom they described as “the righteous-dealing centaur,” precisely as this Psalm represents the Horseman and Hero of whom it speaks. Other centaurs were considered mean and beneath humanity, as Christ was accounted in His humiliation; but with Cheiron everything noble, just, refined, and good was connected, even super-human intelligence, dignity, and power. The artists in picturing him laboured to blend the greatest beneficence and goodness with the greatest strength and majesty. And such is the description of the divine Hero of this Psalm.
According to the myths, Cheiron was the great teacher of mankind in heavenly wisdom, medicine, music, and all noble and polite arts, and from whom the most exalted heroes and the most honoured of men received their tuition. And so it is said of this sublime King that every grace was poured upon His lips, and that He is the One specially blessed of God, whose name every generation shall remember, and whom the people shall praise for ever and ever. The barbed arrows of this Archer are aimed at the heart of the Scorpion. It was sung of Cheiron,
“’Midst golden stars he stands refulgent now,
And thrusts the scorpion with his bended bow.”
And thus the “arrows” of the divine Hero of the text “are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies.” His war is with the whole Serpent-brood, and His going forth is for their destruction. Whether we understand it of the moral and renovating power of the Gospel, or of the judicial administrations of the Son of man at the end of the present Gospel dispensation, or more naturally of both, it is the office and purpose in all the doings of the glorified Christ to pierce and wound the Serpent, to destroy all his works and power, and to disable him for ever. And this is shown in the sign, just as it is declared in the Gospel.
Some of the names in the sign express the further idea of graciousness and delight in connection with the action signified; which again accords with that saying ascribed to Christ in both Testaments: “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips.”
Swiftness is another idea included in these names; and hence of quick and resistless power, of which horses and horsemen are the biblical images, particularly in connection with the scenes of the great judgement which Christ is appointed to enact. And the coming again of Christ is everywhere described as being with great power and glory, quickly, suddenly, like the lightning’s flash. His own word is, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me;” “The great day of the Lord hasteth greatly;” “For when they shall say, Peace, peace; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.”
Cheiron is sometimes represented as occupying Apollo’s throne; and so the word to this royal Judge and invincible Warrior is, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre.”
In the Indian sacred books there is a tenth avatar predicted, when Vishnu, the second in the divine Triad, is to come as a man on a white horse, overthrowing his enemies and rooting out all evil from the earth. And so, according to the last book of the New Testament, when the King of kings and Lord of lords comes forth to the battle of that great day to overwhelm the Beast and the false Prophet and all their armies, He comes in the form of a man sitting upon a white horse, in righteousness judging and making war, the same as Sagittarius.
Thus everything in and illustrative of this sign serves to identify it as a pictorial prophecy of our blessed Lord, answering in all respects to the representations given in the Scriptures. Grotesque and unevangelic as it may seem, it is a showing upon the stars of the same things, under the same images, that we find written concerning the glorified Redeemer in whom all our hopes are centred.
He is the sublime Lord and King of salvation, with the two natures in one person, once humbled to death on the cross, but now exalted to glory in heaven. He is the wise, the true, the good, the righteous, who standeth for the defence and administration of righteousness against the Devil and all the powers of the Adversary. He is the mighty Warrior who rideth prosperously, with the bow and arrows of truth and judgment, ever aiming and speeding them at the heart of the foe, and never more giving over until He has carried everything through to everlasting victory, when Death and Hades, and all the powers and children of evil, shall have sunk for ever to their deserved perdition. And the Decans in this sign confirm and further illustrate what we thus read from it.
In connection with this shooting of the Almighty’s arrows against His enemies, when His right hand shall find them out and His wrath swallow them up, so that their fruit shall be destroyed from the earth and their seed from among the children of men, the twenty-first Psalm introduces a special celebration of God’s exalted strength in the matter, and represents all His holy ones as singing and praising His power. So also in the Apocalyptic visions of the destruction of the destroyers of the earth, the four-and-twenty elders in heaven fell upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, “We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned” – i.e. entered on Thy dominion. Accordingly, also, the first Decan of Sagittarius is the constellation of Lyra, the Lyre, the Harp, marked by one of the brightest stars in the northern heavens.
THE LYRE OF ORPHEUS
The harp is the oldest of stringed instruments of music. The ancients ascribed its invention to the gods. We find it named along with the organ, or shepherd’s pipe, three hundred years before Adam died (Gen. 4:21)*, and find a specimen of song to be sung to it dating back to the same period (Gen. 4:23, 24)**. The most renowned performer on the harp or lyre in the classic myths is Orpheus, often identified with Apollo. He is called the father of songs and the particular helper of the Argonauts, the noble ones seeking for the Golden Fleece. He is not mentioned by this name by Hesiod or Homer, and subsequent writers place him far anterior to Hesiod and Homer, and mention all poets and singers as his children or the children of Apollo, to whom he stands in close relation.
His art is everywhere associated with religion, prayer, prophecy, and all sacred services, teachings, and anticipations, especially with the joyous element in holy things. At the instance of Apollo and the Muses, it is said, God himself placed the Harp of Orpheus among the stars, where it has ever since been gladdening the celestial sphere with brightness and with song.
The placing of that harp as the first Decan of Sagittarius connects pre-eminent gladness, joy, delight, and praise with the action of this great Archer with his bow and arrows. There is but one such sign in all the ancient constellations, and that is associated with the going forth of this double-natured Bowman aiming his arrows at the Scorpion’s heart. It marks him in this particular attitude and act as the achiever of what is the sublimest glory of God and the sublimest joy of heaven.
People often smile and jest at the fabled power of the lyre of Orpheus, at which the rivers for the time forgot to flow, the wild beasts lost their savageness, the trees and rocks on Olympus moved from their places to listen, the ship of the Argonauts glided smoothly into the sea, the mountains became entranced, the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece sank into sleep, the sufferers in the under-world for the moment lost their pains, and all the potencies of hell yielded homage.
But when we connect that lyre with the action of this glorious Archer, and take that action in its true prophetic significance, as the inventors of these signs intended them, these smiles and jests subside, and a scene of glorious achievement opens to our view, which has been the burden of all the songs and prayers and hopes and joyful anticipations of an enthralled and suffering world from the time that Adam was driven out of Eden up till then. That glorious Archer, as he appears in this sign, answers to the Lamb as John beheld Him, standing, having seven horns and seven eyes – all the fullness of regal, intellectual, and spiritual power and almightiness – and in the act of lifting the title-deed of the alienated inheritance to take possession again of all that sin has disponed away. Heaven contemplated that act with awe, and grew breathless as it gazed, and a thrill went through the universal heart of living things. A new song broke forth from the living ones and elders around the throne of Deity, and rolled sublime through all the heavenly spheres, till afar in the depths of space the voices of angelic myriads took it up, and every creature in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and upon the sea, and all things in these realms, were heard singing, and saying, “To Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion for the ages of the ages!” And this is the true lyre of Orpheus – the joy and gladness and jubilation of the universe at the fulfilment of the burden of all sacred hope and prayer embodied in the words, “Thy kingdom come – Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” We thus observe a depth, a splendour, a volume, a pathos, a universality of sacred ardour and poetic outpouring, as just as it is tremendous, and to which all the extravagances of the mythic records do not reach halfway.
With a wonderful appropriateness, then, which could hardly have come from the unaided powers of man, did the framers of these constellations select the brightest star in the northern heavens to represent this harp, and give to it the name of Vega, which signifies He shall be exalted, The warrior triumphant – the very name from which our own word victory has come – a name which the Apostle uses in its primeval and true connection where he challenges Death and Hades, triumphs over them, and cries his glad thanks “to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In some of the old uranographies this constellation is marked by the figure of an eagle or hawk, the enemy of the serpent, who darts forth upon his prey from the heavenly heights with great suddenness and power; and this eagle is in the attitude of triumph, much as the Mexican eagle is presented victoriously grasping the serpent in its claws. It is the same idea, the triumphant overwhelming of the enemy. From this many of the modern atlases represent the figure of this constellation by an eagle holding the harp, or a harp placed over an eagle, expressing triumphant song springing from the eagle – that is, from the vanquisher and destroyer of the serpent.
Whatever the variations of the figure, the same idea is retained, showing the true intention in the marking of this constellation, and the tenacity with which the original thought has clung to it in all ages and in all nations.
It is the sign of the Serpent ruled, the Enemy destroyed, the triumphant fulfilment of the sublimest of hopes and sacred promises.
His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.
Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” -Genesis 4:23,24
ARA, THE BURNING PYRE
Still further is this signified in the second Decan, which the Arabs call Al Mugamra, the completing, the finishing, the making of an end of what was undertaken. The Hebrew uses the elements of the same word where it is said, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Psalm 138:8). The Greeks called it Ara, a word which the Latins used to denote a small elevation of wood, stone, or earth made for sacred purposes, particularly for sacrifices; hence an altar, and also a funeral-pile, whence we have in our charts the figure of an altar covered with burning fire to denote this constellation. The Greeks used the word ara sometimes in the sense of prayer, but more frequently in the sense of an imprecation, a curse, or the effect of a curse – bane, ruin, destruction. Personified, it was the name of the goddess of revenge and destruction. In Æschylus it is the name of the actual curse of Œdipus personified. It connects directly with the Hebrew mara and aram, which mean a curse, utter destruction.
In the latitudes in which these constellations were originally formed Ara was on the lowest horizon of the south. The regions beyond this were contemplated as the lower regions, the under-world, the regions of darkness, “outer darkness;” just as the regions toward the north pole are contemplated as the upper regions, the regions of light and heaven. And, singularly enough, these ara-fires burn downward, toward the dark and hidden abyss, toward the covered and invisible south pole.
The whole significance of the name and figure thus connects with ultimate perdition, the completed curse, the sending into “the lake of fire.”
In the Zodiac of Dendera the figure is different, but the idea is the same. There we have a throned human figure wielding the flail, the implement of threshing and bruising, and that figure at the same time set over a jackal, often identified with the dragon. Here is the unclean and cunning animal of darkness brought under dominion and judgment, threshed, bruised, punished. This throned and threshing figure has a name which signifies the Coming One, the same as in Scorpio. The meaning of the sign is therefore plain. The idea is, victory over the enemy, the thrusting of him into the regions of darkness, the threshing and bruising of him beneath the feet of the conqueror, the beating of him down into final punishment.
According to the Scriptures, the spoiling of Satan and his kingdom by the Virgin-born Son of God is to go on, step after step, to complete overthrow and final perdition. A curse was pronounced upon him at the beginning, fore-announcing that his head should be bruised under the heel of the promised Seed of the woman. Though a strong man armed, a stronger than he was to come upon him, take from him his armour, and subdue all things unto himself, spoiling principalities and powers, triumphing over them. Christ tells us of “everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.” John, in his vision of what must shortly come to pass, heard the heavens resounding with the song, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren” – “the great Dragon, that old Serpent” – “is cast down.” He also saw a messenger from heaven laying hold on the same, binding him and casting him into the abyss, whence he was finally “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone,” where he “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Such is the curse upon the great Enemy, and the finishing of him as set forth in the Holy Scriptures. And what we find thus written in the book is identical with what is pictured on the heavens in connection with Sagittarius. To some the idea may seem far-fetched, and so different from ordinary thinking as to be almost absurd; but let them look at the facts as they are, and tell us what other conclusion is possible. What could be more complete than the correspondence of the two records?
The third constellation belonging to the sign of the Bowman is also very significant, and further determines the meaning to be as just expressed.
One of the most famous mythological creations in the history of human thought is the horrid serpentine monster called the dragon. Together with the serpent, and other things of the same repulsive and dangerous class, this is the universal symbol of evil – of some living power inimical to God and all good, and the just terror of all men. The Serpent stands for that form of the Evil One in which cunning, artifice, deceit, and malignant subtlety are the characteristics. The Dragon represents the same power armed, defiant, and putting forth in imperial forms, and devastating by force. The Serpent is the sly and creeping deceiver, smoothly gliding in to betray, insinuating his poison and destroying by stealth. The Dragon is the terrific oppressor, assailing with teeth and claws, armed all over with spikes, lifting speary wings and tail, spouting fire and fury, and rushing upon its prey with every vehemence of malignant energy. The Serpent and the Dragon are one and the same, only in different modes of manifestation. Hence the Devil is called “the Dragon, that old Serpent.”
Whenever the power of evil is clothed in political sovereignty, persecuting, tyrannizing, and oppressing, it is always the Dragon, or some rampant figure of destruction answering to it.
Among all nations we find this terrible image. Chinese and Japanese legend and art super abound with it. The pages of the classic poets of Greece and Rome teem with it. We find it in the religious books, traditions, and ideas of men of all classes, in all sections of the world, in all the ages. It is in the Old Testament, in the Apocrypha, and in the New Testament. Jews and Gentiles, Christians and heathen, civilized and savage, the Teutons, Scandinavians, and Celts of Europe, as well as the myriads of Asia and the remotest isles of the sea, alike have it, and connect with it the same family of ideas. And everywhere the vanquishing of this monster is the work of gods, heroes, and saints.
Many have wondered and speculated as to how such an imagination obtained this universal hold of the human mind. There is nothing in earthly zoology to serve as the original for the picture, or to account for conceptions and ideas so uniform all the world over. No man ever saw a dragon, living or dead, yet all men talk of the dragon, and adopt it into all their religion, heraldry, and art as the symbol of some well-known reality. Where did it come from? Admit the doctrine which I am endeavouring to elucidate respecting these primeval constellations, and the whole thing is at once and completely explained as nothing else can explain it. Here is the Serpent in all forms of manifestation, and particularly the Dragon, wound about at least one-half of the northern sky, his tail alone extending over the territory of “the third part of the stars.” Here is the divine Hero, armed with bow and arrows, riding like St. George, and aiming his weapons at the heart of that Dragon’s representative. Here is this precise symbol of the evil power in all his various shapes and attributes, and the great Son of the virgin revealed for his destruction, and going forth in His benevolent majesty to make an utter end of the terrible beast. In all the ages has this image been before the eyes of men in the primeval astronomy, pictorially portraying in the stars the very ideas that figure so conspicuously in their myths and traditions. And this, and this only, is the true original of all these ethnic conceptions – the true original by inspiration given.
And as Sagittarius goes forth in war against the enemy to complete upon him the curse, to make all clear and unmistakable the great constellation of the Dragon is added as a third explanatory side-piece, denoting exactly who it is that this mighty administration strikes, thus waking all the triumphant songs of heaven. It is the final fall of the Dragon-power before the arrows of the invincible warrior-Seed of the woman. It is the ultimate victory fore-announced.
In the Apocalyptic visions of the consummation John beheld a great red Dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, upon his head seven diadems, whose tail was drawing along the third of the stars of the heaven. He stood before the woman eager to devour her child as soon as born; but in spite of him that child was caught away to God and to His throne. And then came war in heaven: Michael and his angels warring with the Dragon, who was cast down, and all his angels with him. And then it was that the great voice of song was heard in heaven, because the Accuser, the great Adversary, was conquered and cast down. For a while his persecutions continued upon the earth, till the crowned Warrior on the white horse came, destroying his armies, chaining him in the abyss for a thousand years, and then consigning him and all his to the lake of fire, whence the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever (Revelation 20:7,10,14,15)***.
Thus also the Psalmist sings: “God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth, breaking the heads of the dragons in the waters, breaking the heads of Leviathan in pieces” (Ps.74).
Isaiah refers exultingly to the time when the Lord cometh forth out of His place to punish the workers of iniquity, and says: “In that day the Lord with His sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the crossing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and He shall slay the Dragon;” and calls upon all the people of God to sing when that day arrives (Isaiah 27:1).
And when we lay these foreshowings of the holy prophets alongside of these pictures in the stars, who can question that we have one and the same story in both? In both we behold the same Dragon, the same worming of himself into the domain of God, the same spoliation of peace and good by his malignant power, and the same vastness and stretch of his evil influences and dominion. In both we have the same divine Hero, arrayed as an invincible warrior, going forth in conquering majesty against the Dragon, wounding him with His arrows, cleaving him with His sword, bruising and crushing him for his wickedness, annihilating his power, and consigning him to his deserved and everlasting perdition. The names, the actions, the implements, the results, and the common joy of the holy universe over the achievement, are one and the same in the constellations, in the Scriptures, and in the myths. Nor could all this possibly have been except from one original source, even the sacred promise and foreshowing of God, variously certified, and ever again repeated through His prophets, even from the foundations of the world.
The name of this great constellation is Draco, the Dragon, the trodden-on. The chief star has several ancient names, such as Al Waid, who is to be destroyed; Thuban, the subtle; Al Dib, the reptile. This was the pole-star from four to six thousand years ago, singularly answering to the scriptural designation of Satan as the god and prince of this world. To this day this star is still observed as a very important star to nautical men and the direction of commerce upon the seas, just as the Dragon power still largely prevails.
The second star in this constellation is Rastaban, head of the subtle; the third, Etanin, the long serpent, the Dragon; another, Grumian, the deceiver; another, El Athik, the fraudful; another, El Asiek, the humbled, brought down; another, Gianser, the punished enemy. Roots corresponding to all these words are contained in the Hebrew Scriptures, where they are used in the senses here given.
What shall we say, then, to these things? Mythology says the Dragon is the power that guarded the golden apples in the famous Garden of the Hesperides, hindering men from getting them. Is not this the Devil, the old Serpent, the Dragon, who has thrust himself in to keep mortal men from the fruits of the Tree of Life? Mythology says this Dragon was slain by Hercules. And is not Hercules the astronomic sign of the promised Seed of the woman, the One to come as the Serpent-bruiser, and who stands pictured in his constellation with His foot on the head of the Dragon? Other myths represent the Dragon as guarding the sacred well, and slaying those who came to draw from it, but was slain by the arrows of Cadmus, who had to suffer for it, indeed, but by Minerva’s aid freed the way to the well, and built there a noble city. But is not Cadmus the hero sent to seek his sister who was lost, and the same who was offered as the giver of victory to the people who should accept him as their commander; just as Christ is come to seek and to save that which was lost, through suffering and divinity vanquishing Satan, opening access to the sacred well of the waters of life, building about it the Zion of His Church, and conducting those who take Him as their Lord and King to the blessedness of triumph and everlasting peace? Ay, verily, these signs in the constellations are but another version of what was written by the prophets and set forth in the Scriptures as the true and only hope of man.
“Most wondrous Book! The Author God himself;
The subject, God and man, salvation, life
And death – eternal life, eternal death.
…..On every line
Marked with the seal of high divinity,
On every leaf bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry
And signature of God Almighty stamped
From first to last.”
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison…
… and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…
…Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire…
…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire…