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The names of the gods

16 August 2014

Victor Clube has an article in SIS Review V:4, 'Cometary Catastrophes and the ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky' and whilst admitting the Clube and Napier theory as outlined in 'The Cosmic Serpent' was by no means perfect and was probably strewn with gaffs of one kind or another, the basic idea that comets rather than planets were the agents of disaster (and more significantly, the meteor streams produced by progenitor comets) were sound. At one point, page 107, it is suggested the molecular clouds seen in space telescopes are full of invisible comets – as well as dust. When the solar system encountered molecular clouds it captured some of this material – and was able to expel material at the same time. In other words, comets are not perceived, in their theory, as a constant to the solar system – suggesting they are not necessarily made up of the same material that made up our particular sun system. To make that clearer – comets are old but have not necessarily been our neighbours since the formation of our solar system. They come and go. Some are collected and other are ejected – whenever the solar system comes into contact with molecular clouds. Current space missions by NASA and ESA, in order to study comets, do so under the premise that those comets have been with us since the very beginnings and provide clues on how it all began.

On page 110 they move on to the names applied to the planets and note that invariably they are associated with specific directions. Planets move around in the sky so why would they associate gods such Zeus with specific directions, and the same can be applied to Ninsianna, the subject of an article in the upcoming Review for 2014. The idea even survived down to the time of Ptolemy (astrology) and is a distinct feature of Babylonian astronomy of an earlier period. This, he says, is a fact not often mentioned by modern astronomers. It sits uncomfortably with the idea the gods were planetary in origin – Zeus most famously identified with Jupiter and Ninsianna with Venus. However, he notes, if the names were originally associated with meteor showers and progenitor comets then they would have been associated with specific directions – for long periods of time. Planetary names in the second millennium BC were cometary rather than planetary, he concludes. Serious observation of the planets themselves began in the first millennium BC, he adds.

One feature of their argument involved periodicity. It is always difficult to weed out the genuine periodicities from those inherent to computer programmes but Clube notes that 684 years = nine orbits of Halley's comet and four super synodic periods of Mars (of 171 years), the time Mars takes to realign with the Sun and with the same direction in the sky. A similar thing exists between Encke's comet and the planet Venus. What he appears to be saying is that Venus and Mars of Velikovsky should really be Encke's comet and Halley's comet respectively and have nothing to do with major departures of the planets from their circular orbits. This idea was later adopted by some members of SIS – who seem to have lost enthusiasm for the Ninsianna = Venus explanation which was rampant in early SIS literature. These articles are still relevant however, as by substituting comet instead of planet, especially when material is lifted from mythology and folklore, they make sense – if sense is what we are after. The value of the work is retained. The problem as always, is the tendency of the human mind to favour one theory over others. This can be seen in ideas involving super aurorae events, where sky serpents become undulating aurora rather than comets, when in fact both views should be in the mix, one bolstering the other into a grand view of the past. The idea of Egyptian priests and officials fashioning a great serpent out of wax and then ritually slicing it into pieces does not necessarily fit into an explanation solely involving aurorae but could easily be seen as a means of priests controlling a malevolent sky serpent such as a periodic comet (which incidentally was in the process of disintegrating every time it approached the Sun). Halley's comet is today a shadow of it's former self. It would have been a really big object in the sky, just a few thousand years ago. However, the idea of an evil deity being resisted by a good deity does not fit into the comet only explanation – without distorting the drift of myth. A combination of aurorae in response to a comet, or a heavy meteor shower, might be twisted to make more sense of the idea of conflict between two deities, one destructive in nature and the other in defense of the world below. In addition, the splitting apart of Encke's comet created more than one cometary object – all sailing along in thrall to each other, in resonant orbit, and the same applies to different parts of the Taurid meteoric complex. The idea of multiple deities can be qualified in such a way – so, where did the idea of one god originate? It can only be the ultimate point of reasoning – lots of bodies and bits and pieces floating around in the sky. Something must be controlling them – and the human world below. This coalescing idea is directly opposite to what a native of the Andaman Islands, when confronted by a missionary telling him about God and his munificence, replied by saying, 'once there was a god but he has gone away …'. In other words, if his god had been Encke's comet, or something similar, once it had disappeared (by disintegrating or becoming so small it was visible only on the odd occasion) and then indeed, his god would have gone away. Another example might be from the Pacific Islands. When the natives of Hawaii spotted the white sails of Captain Cook's ship on the horizon, at the point where the sky and the sea become one, they appear to have convinced themselves that one of their gods, unseen for a long time, had returned – and Cook was treated with reverence on reaching landfall. Later, when his humanity manifested itself, and he proved just as ordinary as the average Polynesian, the mood changed.

All that is far from what Clube wrote in Review – and may be discarded or taken onboard with a touch of scepticism, or even revamped into a more acceptable version. The point is, we should not assume the planet Venus is applicable when looking at myth and folklore. Venus is still with us. It hasn't gone away.

John Bimson, in the same issue of Review, poured cold water on the idea of a major Mars encounter at 687BC – one of the points of fracture that broke out after the publication of Worlds in Collision. Those taking Velikovsky literally have remained committed to the idea of a cosmic blast of some kind in 687, and is embraced by revisionists (of chronology), rearing it's head on many occasions. As there is very little evidence to support anything momentous happening in that year orthodox historians have had a field day. Bimson therefore reached the conclusion, it would seem, that the cosmic blast occurred in 701/2BC, when Sennacherib is known to have campaigned in the region. It so it would mean that revisionists would have to look again at the identity of Sethos, who is part of the story. Was he an ally of the Ethiopians? One interesting calculation emerges from this – the period from 701/2 to 776/7 corresponds to a single orbit of Halley's comet. Is there a connection? Were the Olympic Games inaugurated as a result of a signficant  encounter with a comet?

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