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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Relationship of Astrology to Babylonian Star Worship

   Star worship is a fairly common spiritual/religious theme.  In Western culture, it most often take the form of "astrology," which in terms of esteem is held somewhere between legitimate "new age"  spiritual belief and parlor trick depending on who you talk to.  However the Astrology column in the local daily that focuses on Birthday horoscopes does not represent the great history and, frankly, majesty of the larger category of "star worship."

 To understand the depth of star worship, it's best to start at the beginning with the practices of Babylonian Star Worship.  Babylonians are a key world-historical culture because they are the first civilization with writing who spoke a language from a contemporary language family, Semitic. Semitic is the family of Hebrew and Arabic, and Akkadian is the earliest known example. Akkadian is now extinct, but it was "succeeded" by a different Semitic language, Aramaic, which was the language of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians conquered much of the Middle East and held it from roughly 1300 BC to 1000 BC.  By the end of this period, the language of the Assyrian conquerors had become the lingua franca of the entire Middle East, much in the same way Latin was during the Roman Empire and the way English is in the west.  Akkadian itself was the prior Lingua Franca but it was surpassed by Aramaic in the west, and in the east it fell victim to the Persian invasion.  The Persians, of course, spoke a language of Indo-European extraction and thus were outside the Semitic linguistic sphere.

 Babylonian astronomy/star worship both precedes and runs concurrently with the Assyrians but Babylonians and Assyrians were separate related peoples/languages like Spanish/French.  The Assyrians would have essentially received Babylonian/Akkadian texts intact and there would have been interaction and overlap between two religions, with Babylonian's "leading" and Assyrians "following." (1)


(1)  From the Wikipedia Page:

Old Babylonian astronomy refers to the astronomy that was practiced during and after the First Babylonian Dynasty (ca. 1830 BC) and before the Neo-Babylonian Empire (ca. 626 BC).
The Babylonians were the first to recognize that astronomical phenomena are periodic and apply mathematics to their predictions. Tablets dating back to the Old Babylonian period document the application of mathematics to the variation in the length of daylight over a solar year.

Centuries of Babylonian observations of celestial phenomena are recorded in the series of cuneiform tablets known as theEnûma Anu Enlil—the oldest significant astronomical text that we possess is Tablet 63 of the Enûma Anu Enlil, the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, which lists the first and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about 21 years. It is the earliest evidence that planetary phenomena were recognized as periodic.

The MUL.APIN contains catalogues of stars and constellations as well as schemes for predicting heliacal risings and settings of the planets, and lengths of daylight as measured by a water clock, gnomon, shadows, and intercalations. The Babylonian GU text arranges stars in 'strings' that lie along declination circles and thus measure right-ascensions or time intervals, and also employs the stars of the zenith, which are also separated by given right-ascensional differences.[5] There are dozens of cuneiform Mesopotamian texts with real observations of eclipses, mainly from Babylonia.

   This section establishes Babylonian astronomy/astrology as dates to 1830 BC- almost five hundred years before the Assyrian empire arose. 

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