Horus, St. George, Jarilo, and the star-lore of the equinoxes

For the ancients, equinoxes and solstices represented a “celestial cross” that marked the four seasons of the year. For example, if you were to look to the sky during the autumn equinox of September 21th 3000BC, you would see that the first zodiac sign to rise in the east after the sunset is Taurus. In the west, Aquila – the eagle would appear. In the south, you would see Aquarius and in the north – Leo. This particular arrangement of the zodiac signs was signaling the beginning of autumn, while other constellations were important during the other 3 seasons. It is therefore not surprising that a vast body of mythology is related to these astronomical events.

Spring equinox of 3000 BC – east and west view

Take for example Christianity. It is a well-known fact that the four Evangelists of the New Testament were portrayed as follows:  Matthew, as a man – Aquarius, Mark as a lion – Leo, Luke as a bull – Taurus, and John as an eagle – Aquilla. No doubt, this was an astronomical allegory, leaving little room for speculation that the rest of the 8 apostles can also be related to the other 8 signs of the zodiac.

And it is not only in the New Testament that we encounter this symbology. In the Old Testament we see the same thing presented a bit differently – as a supernatural being called cherub.

  1. Christ and the four Evangelists 2. Cherub – Wikipedia commons

But this ancient idea in fact much older than the Bible – take for example griffins (a word considered to be a cognate of cherub) – supernatural beings with the head of an eagle and a body of a lion. Or sphinx, with the head of the man, body of a bull, a pair of wings and paws of a lion.

The same goes for chimeras, which are of a later date, and I know that because instead of the head of a man they have a goat’s head. The idea was to mark the change of constellations in the south during the autumn equinox (from Aquarius to Capricorn) – an event that started taking place around 2000 BC.

  1. Griffin 2. Sphinx 3. Chimera – Wikipedia commons

Personally, I believe that cherubs were incorporated into the Jewish tradition directly from the Egyptian religious system. Not only that it makes sense historically, the fact is also that the word “cherub” cannot be translated in Hebrew. There are plenty of speculations on its origin out there and all the etymologies are based on the other ancient languages of the region.

However, I believe that I know exactly where it comes from. It could be that in ancient times the constellation that we now call “eagle” was in fact a “falcon”, and that it represented Horus of the Egyptians. Not only that Horus was pictured as a man with the falcon’s head, a representation so typical of the zodiac signs – his name was in fact written as ḥr.w and pronounced as ħaːruw. If we just read the last letter as “B” instead of “V” – we get the word identical to “cherub”. Strange as it sounds, but it seems that nobody else had noticed this. (?)


Horus, Wikipedia commons

Here is a short quote about Horus from the book “Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World” by Gerald Massey, page 572:

Two birthdays had been assigned to the Horus of the double horizon, one to the child-Horus in autumn, the other to Horus the adult in the vernal equinox. These were the two times or teriu of the year.

But when the solstices were added to the equinoxes in the new creation of the four quarters established by Ptah for his son Atum-Ra, there was a further change. The place of birth for the eleder, the mortal Horus who was born child of the Virgin Mother, now occured in the winter solstice and the place of rebirth for Horus the eternal Sun was celebrated in the vernal equinox, with three months between the two positions, instead of six.

As we can see, in the early days Egyptian year was divided in only two parts. These halves were marked by the spring and autumn equinox, the only two dates when days and nights are equal, symbolically separating the year in two halves.

Interestingly, between the 5th and the 3rd millennium BC, the constellation of Aquilla – the eagle, was marking the autumn equinox. Therefore we can assume that this constellation was originally seen as the falcon-headed Horus. The division of the year in quarters came later, probably with the advances in agriculture which demanded a more complex calendar.

Indeed, Dendera zodiac, the oldest zodiac in the world, shows Horus holding the four quarters in his hands, a representation that can be expected in the 1st century BC, when the year already had 4 seasons. But on the same zodiac, he is also shown in the lap of the Virgin Mother – the constellation Virgo, a memory of the times when it was believed that he was born during the autumn equinox, not the winter solstice. Click here for the large photo of the zodiac.

The following photo illustrates what the Egyptians would see some 2000 years before Dendera zodiac, around 2000 BC, when Sun was rising in Virgo during the autumn equinox.

virgo autumn.jpg

In ancient Greece, Virgo was known as Demetra. It is said that her name originally meant – Da-mater (mother – giver) or Ge-mater (mother Earth), both being in association with the autumn harvest. Her equivalent was the Phrygian Cybele, whose chariot is pulled by the lions – as  the constellation Leo comes before Virgo.

However, in the case of “Horus of the double horizon”, we see the original Egyptian myth when the year still had only two seasons.  Here we learn that one of his births was during the spring equinox, and the other in autumn – when Sun was in Virgo. Therefore we could say that he was twice-born, or Horus of “two mothers” – which could also sound similar to “Demeter” in Indo-European languages.

This interesting analogy reminds me of the name of St. Demetrius, one of the most important saints of the Orthodox church. His feast day is on the 26th of October – one month after the autumn equinox. But neither is the equinox in Virgo anymore. The constellations have shifted, taking their star-lore with them. Currently, it is precisely during October that the Sun is rising in Virgo. Sunrise of the St. Demetrius feast of the current year is pictured below. This means that St. Demetrius is clearly associated with Virgo-Demetra, just like Horus was to the Egyptians.

Demetrius.jpgisis horus.jpg

  1. Sunrise on the feast day of St. Demetrius 2. For ancient Egyptians Isis nursing Horus

But before I establish further connections between St. Demetrius and Horus, I need to give you some basic facts. In the Orthodox tradition, St. Demetrius is known as “Demetrius from Thesaloniki” as his cult in Greece was first established in this city. However, as Wikipedia states:

“Most scholars endorse the hypothesis put forward by Bollandist Hippolyte Delehaye, that his veneration was transferred from Sirmium when Thessaloniki replaced it as the main military base in the area, in 441-442 AD. “

This is why the Catholic church knows this saint as “Demetrios of Sermium”. Sirmium was one of the most important Roman cities ever established and its remains still lie on the territory of modern Serbia, some 55km west of Belgrade.

Wikipedia further states:

After the growth of his veneration as saint, the city of Thessaloniki suffered repeated attacks and sieges from the Slavic peoples who moved into the Balkans, and Demetrios was credited with many miraculous interventions to defend the city.

Supposedly, merely a century after the arrival of his cult to Thessaloniki from the territory of modern Serbia, Slavs came to Balkans, following the same route as St. Demetrius only to be repelled by this Saint in Thessaloniki. I highly doubt this – in fact, I believe that it was the Slavs who brought his cult to Greece, whether this means that they were present in Balkans before the official history accepts or not. Let me explain.

First of all, St. Demetrius is normally paired with St. George, and these two saints are more venerated in the Eastern Orthodox church than in the Western, ever since the time of Byzantium. But even in the Western church, these saints are predominantly venerated by the Slavic nations. In Balkans, these are THE most popular saints! Would that make any sense if St. Demetrius became popular as a defender against Slavs?

Second, both St. George and St. Demetrius were horsemen, meaning that their cult probably came from the nomadic culture of the steppes and not the sea-locked Greece. Also, the name of Sirmium, from which St. Demetrius originated, could be derived from Sarmatians – nomadic horsemen from the steppes, considered as the ancestors of the modern Slavs.


St. George and St. Demetrius – Wikipedia commons

It is also clear that the original idea behind these two saints was to mark the spring and vernal equinox, while the calendar still had that ancient form of only two seasons. This kind of calendar is suitable for nomadic tribes of horsemen, as the war campaigns lasted from spring to autumn. This logic was still present in Balkans during the Ottoman rule, where the groups of guerilla warriors known as Hajduks would go on campaigns between Djurdjevdan and Mitrovdan – days of these two saints.

But the Day of St. George, known as Djurdjevdan in Balkans, is celebrated on the 6th of May (23. of April in the old Julian calendar). And even though it is still venerated as the beginning of the spring, the fact is that the spring equinox happens a whole month and a half earlier, on the 22nd of March.

This simply means that Slavs preserved the tradition which made sense only between 2000BC and beginning of the new era, before the constellations had shifted for one and a half months, as in the 5th- 6th century AD Thessaloniki, let alone Ottoman Balkans, this idea wouldn’t make too much sense. (!)

But if this tradition was indeed so popular, one would expect to find some archaeological proves of its existence in Balkans during the first millennia BC. And we do have them – in a form of the Thracian horsemen. No need to go here in Thracian relationship with Scythian and Sarmatian tribes as it is well documented by the ancient authors.


Thracian horseman, Wikipedia commons

Since we have identified constellation Virgo as a St. Demetrius of the nomadic culture, St. George must be right across – on the spring equinox, but where exactly? I believe that I have the answer – it was right there in front of our eyes all this time and it just took a bit of imagination to see it.

St. George is actually a combination of six constellations: Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Triangulum, Aries, and Cetus. These six constellations literally show the image from an icon of “St. George slaying the dragon”, and this event was happening exactly on the spring equinox, during the last two millennia BC! (click to enlarge!)


Spring equinox of 2000 BC. The earth-horizon is just under the Sun, but on this image removed to reveal the Cetus constellation

Amazing, right? Now compare the above image with these scenes:


  1. St. George slaying the dragon 2. Horus slaying Apep Wikipedia commons

As you can see, both of the scenes relate to the same astronomical event. And even though they are shown in languages of two different myths, the similarities are strikingly similar, meaning that there was some previous contact. Besides, the constellation Cetus nowadays means simply “whale” but the ancients saw it as a “dragon”, a “sea-monster”, ever since Babilon. (read more on the highlighted article).

As for the Aries and a Triangulum, they indeed look like a horse, under the Perseus, a hero whose very name gives a hint of his Scythian origin.

So how did Perseus become St. George? The Greek etymology of the name George is “farmer, earthworker”. This agricultural sense is clearly not applicable here. But if we look for the analogy in the ancient Slavic pantheon, we see a god named Jarilo (Yarilo)- a god of vegetation, fertility, and the springtime. Also a god of war. For Jarilo Wikipedia says:

Jarilo became identified with St. George after the arrival of Christianity, possibly because of mild similarities in their names.

But is this really the case, or is the name George just a corruption of Jarilo, signifying the same thing?

The thing is that the Slavic etymology is completely appropriate here. Even today the word “ярь” (yar) means “spring” in Russian and Ukrainian language. And if we know that the New Year began precisely on this holiday, it makes you wonder where the word for “year” actually comes from.

year (n.)
Old English gear (West Saxon), ger (Anglian) “year,” from Proto-Germanic *jeram “year” (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German jar, Old Norse ar, Danish aar, Old Frisian ger, Dutch jaar, German Jahr, Gothic jer “year”), from PIE *yer-o-, from root *yer- “year, season” (source also of Avestan yare (nominative singular) “year;” Greek hora “year, season, any part of a year,” also “any part of a day, hour;” Old Church Slavonic jaru, Bohemian jaro “spring;” Latin hornus “of this year;”

At the same time, Jarilo was a god of war because the spring equinox happens in March, a month that carries the name of Roman god of war – Mars. Jar also means “anger” in Slavic languages. It is believed that ancient Slavic warriors would storm into the battle screaming his name – a custom still preserved in modern Slavic warfare – in words “Jurish” and Rusian “Ura”, both meaning “to storm”. And with this analogy, another etymology comes to mind, the title “earl“.

earl (n.)
Old English eorl “brave man, warrior, leader, chief” (contrasted with ceorl “churl”), from Proto-Germanic *erlaz, which is of uncertain origin. In Anglo-Saxon poetry, “a warrior, a brave man;” in later Old English, “nobleman,” especially a Danish under-king (equivalent of cognate Old Norse jarl), then one of the viceroys under the Danish dynasty in England.

Whether these English etymologies are related is irrelevant. (Even though I believe that they are) What is more important to note is how the ancient Slavic tradition was incorporated into Christianity, even though at the beginning of the current era this particular star-lore was already losing its meaning. But the cult was surely still strong and so these two important heroes were converted to Christian saints, as in this way it was much easier to convert the people.

It is also very clear that the tradition of a two-season year, marked by the two horsemen could only come from the steppes – and as we saw with the little help of astronomy, it can be even dated to the last two millennia BC.

As for Jarilo, it is hard to say how old is his cult in the Slavic religion. Judging by the words for “spring” and “anger”, but also “fire, embers” etc..  a very, very long time, as these words are not so easily changed or adopted from the other languages. Even the Latin word “Aries” sounds very close, and we saw that Aries was the part of Jarilo’s horse.

Also, the name of Horus which was written as ḥr.w and pronounced as ħaːruw, could be read as Jarov if we exchange the soft H for Y. Jarovit is another name of Jarilo. But Slavic pantheon also had a deity Hors, “god of the solar disk”, although not much is known about it.

While for the Thracian horseman Wikipedia states:

Inscriptions found in Romania identify the horseman as Heros (also Eros, Eron, Herros, Herron), apparently the word heros used as a proper name.

And finally “jarac” or “jare”, means “kid, young goat” in Slavic. In terms of astronomy, this could only make sense during the time when the autumn equinox was in Capricorn, which happened roughly between 8-6000BC, but perhaps this is pushing it too far?