Indus astronomy symbols

Every culture needs some kind of calendar for time planing. That also means they need symbols and conventions that at least some people understand and can use the same symbolism and conventions. We can understand some of the Indus calendar symbolism

Toe of Gemini, gandharva, naksatra, Soma, double-axe, female centaur, Horus, Oxen, Narmer Palette, painted ceramics, aswins, humanising, Agni, Waterman, Crab, polestar, Thuban, Koshab, crossed circle, swastika, sun square, month wheel, earth oven

Indus|Naked goddess | Moon year | To Underworld | Indus script | Sumerian astronomy | Early Animal round | Inanna myth |Time law ideas | Egyptian calendar | Egyptian night sky | Iconography | Lingua Franca | indexTE | indexTL | home |

Calendar symbols

Here I gather symbols I think were used for describing time and/ or calendar in practical astronomy and related to the asterisms. The base was sun year symbolise with a square oriented after solstices and equinoxes. The gateway to the first season was originally at Toe of Gemini and the first new moon after spring equinox with another half-year gateway at autumn equinox. The things maybe altered in time and a minor part of the culture maybe used division after the solstices. That is what we see also in European megalith monuments.

The moon year was more precise and originally maybe they connected the moons / months to the stars only. In India we get often more than word for and idea and in this case we have at least gandharva / naksatra for parting the sky into 27 / 28 parts of the starry sky through which the moon travelled

In Buderupholm Skov North Jutland there is an interesting stony monuments. From one side of a low 12 meter across the mound goes a row of stones over it in 70 metres with 27 stones. North of the row is a circle with 9 stones and one in the middle. West of the row is a stony circle of the double size with 27 stones. West of the entire establishment is a circle with 7 stones. We get the number 27 at least two times and we can ask if this is a calculator for the moon cycle in the Indian style. … The Medicine Wheel at Big Horn USA could be of the same kind with 28 spokes.

The Indians counted /symbolised moons/ months in pair 2 x 6 with half-year division and feast days at the gateways to even with sun year. The month wheel symbolised that. Spring festival they celebrated to Soma, the Naked Rain is one of three essentials for growth. The other two are sun and soil. The other festival was at Ramadan and the feast time altering with the cycle of the moon. Much the same as we se everywhere else. They also divided the year in three parts we today call terminuses. The trisection we see clearly in last millennium BC in Scandinavia in rock carvings.

Here I sketch only the main method since we do not know too much about alternative methods. Neither we know how these could be connected to other professions than agriculture. In Egyptian symbolism we clearly see that the second half-year was for the cattlers and miners. In cities and temples they did not need to follow the nature for practical reasons. But since they were depending on agriculture it was convenient to follow the farmers' year.

For Rigveda as source see for instance http://sarasvati.simplenet.com and Rig Veda Sam.hita_: English Translation based on Sa_yan.a and Wilson The small fragments about ritual astronomy are many in 1.164.01 - 1164.52

Here I chose only representative examples and I do not mention all variants. Without order in time and space I comment the motif at set them into the practical astronomy at the time.

…It would be natural to begin with the double-axe that could be seen as two crescents or two blades in different directions. It could symbolise "new" respective "wane" moon and also "going beneath" and "grow" respectively. In symbolism the same symbol / icon is often used in all similar situations.

In Scandinavian old language and tradition we have a term "skaera = "to cut out" = make sacred or protected. (also OE scir OHG scira = care). At the sanctuary of Alvastra in Sweden there was a place with a little stone and besides that a double-axe with one edge down. Maybe the little stone symbolise the "seed" that should be protected upward and downward.

On some Bronze Age rock carvings we see the crescent shaped axe blade toward the sky. Such symbolism and maybe ritual acts are just teaching how nature works. The early societies were a "wholeness" where everyone including the children learned from the rituals. There is no magic in this and I suppose children knew more about nature than our children that are much interested in the computer and other mechanical things.

The meaning here seems to be "protect the field and growth". Even nowadays farmers protect the seed to be sown with pesticides and naturally all the Mights from above meet pesticides. This is the old dilemma of growing crops. But we also see from rock carvings that farmers' settlements should be protected against thieves on two and four legs. Farming intruded on the natural law of "free nature for all" and the farmers should be ready to fight for their fields.

 … … Maybe we should also mention the crescent shaped sickles with inscription. Both types are found in pair and they have surely been symbolic in rituals. At the same time we find the crescent shaped sickles and daggers in pair in Scandinavia in slab cist together with one wedge-shaped amulet often decorated with vegetative symbols. We can also note that in the Nart-epos from Caucasus there is a song about "the Birth of the sickle". In Sumerian literature there is a song to the pick-axe. Such things were great inventions and were celebrated and advertised. In Scandinavian rock carvings there is one Egyptian bronze sickle on a ritual boat.

In the big cultures cities have covered most of the early settlements so that archaeology has much been about dynastic times from 3100 BC onward. In Europe and Scandinavia we have the evidence of ritual culture in 4th millennium BC with stable monuments as dolmens, causeways, passage graves and also finds of double-axes and amulets in the shape of the same.

Outside the city cultures in the deserts west of Egypt, in Sinai and other places there are still some megalith monuments from predynastic times. Lately they have also excavated areas outsides the city culture in Egypt with finds of early script from 4th millennium BC. Maybe we should wait for more finds of that kind so that we see the Ritual Age of that unknown millennium too. Surely excavations in India also will bring more light in future.

 …. … two-sided and three-sided tokens have sometimes season symbols. On this the ritual motifs are the young man and the lady with lifted arms, "I am ready". On the other seal the lady sits with spread legs over a Crab. That is the asterism which is above the head of Water-snake, i.e. it is the original Inanna myth when she leaves the seed to Ereshkigal in Underworld. There also some tokens with the Snake / Water-snake symbol of pregnancy.

 … This figure associates to "trisection under the roof"

In Rigveda the three seasons Rbhus are named Rbhu, Vibhva and Vaja in an order that tell they began the year in end of season and when frogs began to sing announcing the rain period. On the Animal Round it was after the Gharial / Rahu Dog (Sagittarius) when He-goat took over Rbhu. That is at our Capricorn.

 …This symbol means mountain and probably it has been pronounced AI in syllable language. As icon it is the same as Sumerian EKUR meaning "big mountain" and the ziggurat or temple in dynastic time. But earlier it was the "original hill" and symbol for the inundation period when people moved from the shores to dry land. In Egyptian vase painting 4th millennium we see it together with the leaf hut that also was symbol of rain period.

 … "Oh, Rbhus! You were asleep, thereafter ask the sun Agohya, who is it that woke us up. The He-goat replied, the hound is the awakener. As the year is passed, today you declare the same" Rigveda 1.161.13

Here the He-goat tells that his season is over. I think we should understand this as in one tradition they celebrated beginning of the rain season in the He-goat Capricorn and that was the "sleeping period" Rbhu when they lived on goat, fish, sheep and dwelled in houses. … see also the early Sumerian zodiac that partitioned the year in three season of different length.

Note that we see several layers of calendars and time rituals. Normally they begin with the season and spring ritual. Others begin at summer solstice and some a little later when inundation or rain period begins. Perhaps we can also find some calendars begin at winter solstice as for instance in Egypt. Generally we have half-year division but should also take to account the trisected moon year. They need not have been symmetrical in the beginning as the early Sumerian animal round shows.

The late Rigveda have many hymns to the Horse. That surely due to the precession and maybe Time that made horse important among novelty. As always in the hymns it is difficult to separate the heavenly animals form the earthly. The Horse is the winged Pegasus we also see in some Indian rock carvings. They sacrificed a goat together with the horse that should be a stallion. A goat as companion makes the stallion calm. But it is also the old He-goat that began the rain season and together they are the simplified suite.

Here we can also cite a verse from a song at Inanna's festival

"The young men carry big bangles and sing for you

The virgins and the priestesses with high coiffures walk in front of you

They carry the sword and the double-axe …"

Most of the Sumerian songs are from 3rd millennium and the time of cities and temples. But in Scandinavia we have finds of double-axes and stony monuments "going beneath" from 4th millennium. We can expect that the bigger cultures also carried out the rituals at that time. The two sides of the double- axe maybe symbolise the phases of the moon and it was created at the same time as they created the ritual, i.e. around 4200 BC. The Follow Her / Time ritual is surely as old as organised settlements.

In the song we understand that Inanna was the rain and she symbolises by the newness of new moon with incarnations in the sky and her twin sister Ereshkigal, the womb "the Great to give Birth" in Underworld. The poems were written in her city at a time when she became the Great in which name everything was done.

Inanna and Soma are the concepts of circulating water in nature and that carry the smallest material of life The symbolism in Indus and Sumer is much the same. Water was the "elixir of gods" … mankind was only "the legs of gods" carrying out the wills of the gods. Priesthood knew precisely the will of gods … and it is much the same today in our society

…The female centaur is maybe inspired by the Sumerian symbol … see Sumerian early zodiac. Observe the animal body of a lion and the Markhor goat horns. It was originally a merged of asterism for the five moon season from Leo to Tab of Scorpio. With time it was simplified In this case the Indus symbol could be only a four-month symbol for Markhor-goat / Aries to Virgo.

 … Existed a tiger with horns? There are some seals with that animal and maybe it was just a two-month symbol. In one seal we see the horned hero in battle with a tiger. Maybe we could associate to the Bullfight as in Sumer between Gilgamesh and the Bull or between the Bull and brothers Enkidu and Gilgamesh, body and soul. That Bull was perhaps the asterism Taurus / Kaitos below the hero Perseus. The two symbols should maybe read "period in the angle" that was a corner of the month-wheel / sun square.

…… We meet several direct loans from Egypt in Indus as for instance the tablet in which the Time Horus spears Oxen … see Senenmut's calendar. The Bull at the tray is similar composition as on the Narmer palette ca 3000 BC. It was symbol of Pharaoh as the "Big Bull", defender of the Two lands. He was "stand in" for Horus also.

We se the "min" symbol in front of Gharial the crocodile that surely was an asterism near Sagittarius … see also Senenmut's Calendar. According to the symbolism a Crocodile eat the months of the year and it was replaced with a little one. See also below the big square with a little square in corner

 … for some reason there are two scorpions on this amulet. The Frog indicates beginning of the wet period and Scorpio is at the place were the heavenly river crosses the ecliptic. They often have the Bull together with Scorpio since they are opposite stars and at that time they fitted at the equinoxes as fix-stars.

 … No rule without exception. Here we see the Rhinoceros together with ritual ship symbol that we normally see with Unicorn. I suggest that these two symbols were opposite and would mean May and October. That could have been the "sailing season". In Scandinavia the sailing season was of that size and on late medieval calendar sticks we see a boat symbol at May 1st and October 1st. In rock carvings we see the Boatlifter as symbol for end of season maybe.

In Egypt the sail is seen in 4th millennium painted ceramics and there are horned heads in the upper corners.

 … On the same painted ceramics we see the goddess Her followed by two male helpers in the growers myth. Sometimes there are also two goats or only two goats that are the "helpers" of the cattlers. Generally most of the gods have helpers and they call them aswins = friends … When they created the heavenly Horse he got a follower the Goat. They tell that a goat cools down the stallion.

This seal associates to the song when Inanna invented "shadowing trees" and also discovered that goats could eat the leaves. A goddess of fertility care for everything growing is the rule … I hope our gods will learn soon.

The myth is about the Master of the garden raping the goddess. In reality the Master made the invention of course. It was the normnal poetry to use concepts like "rape, working in the fork, sexual intercourse" in poetry when telling about inventions and actions. It was also wise to blame the deities or give credit, when surrounding people criticised the doings with some envy I suppose.

There are many and long songs about Inanna making peace between cattlers and growers. Marriage, brotherhood and agreements were the means. Her headgear is the normal horns and she has also the twig and that symbolises just cattlers and growers. In legend the cattlers were the first and in many myths the claim for more rights than the latecomers with their agriculture.

… …As standard and for convenience and I use symbols from Asko Parpola's book Indus Script. The fig-leaf is often used and Asko suggest that it is the symbolic World Tree. The tree has many air roots and maybe they originally thought the stars hanging down from the universal tree. The rich Indian symbolism leaves room for many alternative suggestions. The main thing is that we understand what it was all about

The Crab could be symbol for the asterism that sometimes is Cancer and also Turtle. It is an important time in the calendar since it is the "going beneath" point. Evidently it is also used as symbol for the verb "grip" and conjunction in astronomy. If it is merged with moon symbol it shows a time in the moon calendar.

 … This is understandable as "work" in a definite space since the U-shape show limits but still the space could be affected buy filling in something or by moving the rod. The urn, pot, cauldron became important ritual symbol since it shows the working place and also the harvest and storing place. The biggest is naturally Mother Earth as place for her work. In Celtic symbolism we have Dagda with cauldron and club as the harvester of vegetables and animals.

In my corner of the world Christianity have done its best to make fertility and sexuality a sin. For ancient people it was the main goal since the domesticated plants and animals did not give the gain we get today. It was always risky business depending on years and weather in a wet climate since there were no ditching yet. They were forced to be fertile and loving fertility in the same way as we see it in nature. The will of survival is the real driver of life … maybe we soon get forced to think that way.

 …If we in Scandinavia want to see the Polestar it is above our head. The Norse call it perhaps Skev and tell about a fox in the connection. On the zodiac of Dendera Egypt we see the fox standing on a pick and that must be Little Bear with the Polestar.

On the sketch to a sun square at Högsbyn Dal there is a footprint with an askew stroke and the marks perhaps the polestar as well as the pole pillar. The use of a settlement pole seems to have been custom in many places and as far as Siberia.

They point out Koshab either as polestar or as the star in the corner

At Rock 1 Haugsbyn we see Little Bear and star Koshab is marked with a crossed square that should mean, "use this" as polestar. That would have fitted around 2000 BC. I found it was very useful for the time span I was studying. The head of the big figure at the Evenstorp carvings seems to be Little Bear and the body is Big Bear with a foot in Regulus in Leo that maybe have been fix star for the rising node. They often mention Thuban in Dragon as polestar. That would have fitted around 3100 BC.

On the latitude of Indus the polestar is 25 - 30 degrees above horizon. It would be natural to use a pole with crossed wing and a heel stone and watch the stars circumpolar stars circling around. The always-visible stars have been important as the upper court. Before 4200 BC they probably followed Big Bear as the Seven Sages. Sumerian folk memory tells about the "faithful Herd of Heaven before the new order. 

The "roof" on the symbol maybe symbolises just that the stars are at the roof. They are not always the same during the precession cycle Magnus Year of 26000 because of the wobbling some stars in the periphery could be invisible for a period.

 … The crossed circle normally symbolises a time period. It could be the sun year with crossing lines for the solstices and equinoxes. Scandinavian symbols are often pairs of feet and the direction should symbolically be the toes in south. The symbol is use for quarters and half-years as well and in a lot of place we see four of which one is marked with a little empty boat for first quarter. The small cupmark usually marks beginning of season. In a few cases the beginning of second season is marked with two cupmarks and the second half could have double lines.

In syllable languages the symbol reads KA/ GA understood as "go" / it goes" and then the time or maybe the sun. The figure is closed and logically it means a definite time.

…At least big circles are difficult to make without compasses. Maybe that is the reason why we see few circles in Indus Script The small circle with a dot is maybe the "heavens eye" the sun and four circles are the quarters. In Scandinavia 1 - 4 circles are sometimes used for symbolising quarters and in few cases the empty circle symbolises sun or moon but it could also be " defined entity and if we look at the line it is "orbit / bane"

 … The swastika symbolises sun year. Some of the early symbols are made as "running feet" and in late symbolism we see it often even for the tripod. Time is an endless spiral movement in space. But it is easier to simplify and part it to defined units like a year. Then the circle is the normal simplification.

The Indus Square is symbolic and as small as possible with 3 x 3 smaller squares. The Scandinavian Square has normally 14 x 14 squares. The golden plate from Stonehenge has 9 x 9 triangles and the Indus Square at centre. Astronomers have checked that it could be use for deciding the important calendar events of the year.

 ……The Sun Square symbolises the sun year with the Month Wheel in centre. Normally they were interested in the moon year since the water ritual followed that. Maybe the small squares symbolise 8 animals of their Animal Round. I have not yet found an image with them all, so my conclusions come from analysing the seals.

 … … Three of a kind symbolises the noun and the wavy line water. It could be the water god, but in this case it is the heavenly flood Watergate. One end is at Sagittarius and the birds fly above it Aquila, Swan and Owl = Lyre.

Again we get a little help from Egypt where we find the same symbolism. Sometimes there is an eagle in the small corner square. That corner of square symbolises Ramadan

 …This symbol is then some other corner and that seems to be the symbol for LEEK or LEAK the beginning of growth.

 … We find something like this in Egypt symbolising the four pillars carrying heaven, i.e. the cardinal directions. This figure shows that the pillars belong to the same whole.

In Scandinavia they are standing freely but surely it has been some kind of practical arrangement with pillars for deciding the directions when watching the stars. Later when they got used they needed only one stable alignment as for instance the Vi that was in use until 18th century in a few places in Denmark

… … If you have a parted year you need two symbols for symbolising that. In Scandinavian symbolism they draw the second half with double lines or double the symbols. Generally they were only interested in the season

 … … … The first symbol creates a link to the U-shapes symbols. We see them with 2 or 3 strokes that establishes three of them and maybe they symbolises periods.

 ………… We must note that the symbols have been made in at least two places during a long period. We cannot expect standardised symbols. The symbol could be interpreted as an Urn or some cavity. Here we see the additional signs that make the use in astronomy feasible as for instance the last merged with the angle for LEAK..

The Urn became fashion around 200 BC all over the world. That was possibly the result of the new invention of pots made of metal. The Chinese invented the "steam boiler. In many cases new inventions became ritual items and for the nobility the boiler was a reason of feast. The makers of boilers surely used some myth to sell it … in my mind the "dip in cauldron" at Christmas was the real feast … in Polynesia they still have the big pot at their "luau"

……… The oblong figure is of the same shape as the earliest month symbol in the French caves. In Indus it would be natural with them in pair since they normally defined them in pairs.

The cross stroke is for half months like in English the old word "fortnight" for 14 days. As mentioned circles are seldom seen and in this case they intersect so it could be some marriage there. As always the symbols could be used for many synonymies.

 … … .. These are marked with special symbol for the moon of half years. The last symbol is the moon of Ramadan. Similar symbols we find in Sumerian

 … …These are the month wheel at different times and the jump from a moon year to another

……… …This X we can link to the moon year by the shape. The second X has a "mountain" symbol on one end. That means surely the "Original Hill". We see it also in the Egyptian pot paintings meaning the time of year when they moved away from the inundation. The third and last have a symbol that associates to growth and germ.

 … Asko Parpola suggests that in some cases tri-symbolism should be interpreted as a "fire place" since they placed the pot on three stones. So this could mean the time for offer since we know about seasonal fire offer. Cooking food is the original offer.

When I found this symbol in Idaho I concluded that it could be the same as "umu ti or imi ti" in the Polynesian world. That is the "earth oven" they often make in earth at their "luau". We have mound of burnt stones from early Iron Age and I suppose that the fire oven and luau were fashion when they cooked with hot stones at the feast of Aegir. The biggest earth oven is that of Mother Earth of course.

 … … Asko Parpola has shown the use of the fish as symbol for heavenly bodies. It reads "min" and means fish as well as heavenly body / star. In the symbolism the stars swim in the heavenly ocean. Still we sometimes hear in Swedish someone mention the heavenly ocean and other old expressions from those days. Look at the sky over and ocean when heaven and seas seems to be one and the same. In dark nights it is evident..

There is a seal from the time of Sargon around 2350 BC. We see Enki, the first on earth step upon the Original Hill. Above him is a flood with swimming fishes. There are some fishes on the Animal Round and for the Phoenicians and Scandinavians it was natural to picture the asterism Kaitos as the Whale. In medieval pictures we see the imagination of the heavens as a virtual simplified copy of the earth.

See also the Idaho symbols for more comments on Indus Script. See also http://harappa.com for the latest news and excellent pictures from the Indus culture. You also find some of the work of Asko Parpola there.

Humanised symbols

In dynastic time began the humanising of the gods, since the high priests wanted to get a link to the gods. That would give them more power. In Egypt we see clearly that the first leaders were "yearman" = Horus = Time. They used the metaphor that he was the Bull that defended the symbolic fenced world. In Sumer they soon discovered that city walls is a good thing and the hero got credit for the invention.

There is a period with half-human half-animal gods. We see that Gilgamesh and his body Enkidu often are pictured with bull-legs and tail. In the same pace they lost the bonds to environment in cities. The main problems are usually relations and hierarchy. There need not be any battle but such questions should be solved.

In Mesopotamia Sargon of Akkad ca 2300 BC seems to have brought a new style into the seals … see Humanised zodiac. In the seal the asterism are represented by nearly fully humanlike figures. Corresponding to this were the specialised priestesses and priest in the different shrines and temples. There are finds of Indus type seal, amulets and tokens in Mesopotamia and that proves that there was interchange of culture. In the Sumerian texts we find even that they used the idea of Seven Sages.

 … On the Narmer palette ca 3000 BC the four Oxen have human face and there are more of the mixed kind in symbolism of the time. It was the last step of learning from animal so that humankind took the rule. There are a lot more animals in symbolism but here I mentions only the important for the practical astronomy and ritual.

 … This figure could associate to the new moon as well as to Fire, Agni that was important since fire ritual was rule in the beginning of season and also in the three-month festivals. The Fire was symbol of growth as we say "fire in the blood" as the life giving action. The songs to Agni in Rigveda are important for the late fire rituals.

… Third figure is surely the Weather or Stormgod that was the main god in northern Mesopotamia and Anatolia. That is one of the oldest and mightiest forces for mankind … easy to think of that when I see the floods, tornadoes and hurricanes going on at this time of year.

… We find Him early in Australia and even in our days He is a true evil force in places with sandstorms. They call him Witdukurra in some dialect and they warn for the Kadairaman in the storm since he eats people and especially children. Naturally mankind needs powerful metaphors so that the children can look out.

But I wonder about the crakows. We see idols and kings use the " eastern shoes" as for instance on Hittitian seals. But does it mean something else here? Is it a merged figure?

It would be natural for sailors and tradesmen to know everything about weather and waters. The deities are naturally synonyms for real concepts specialised to the different gods. The god was the icon they gathered the needed knowledge around. Cult for the sake of cult would not bring goods with profit from foreign places and neither would it bring food on table.

 … this amulet was found in Sumer and it is influenced by the Indus Symbolism. The star was normally glyph for a deity but here not quite the Sumerian style. Here the "Waterman" is Aquarius and symbolises the water carriers and inundation. In ancient cities they were part of the street life in places without well in every house.

 … in ancient symbolism there is a double headed bird and in Egyptian even a double head man. Several variants have the yoke and the oblong symbols that could mean moons, but also indicate balance or a cross-line between two points / stars.

… this figure stands with a foot in separate year symbols. He jumps between years at New Year. We see a lot of same symbolism in Scandinavian rock carvings and mostly some figure jumps between two time-ships. It would mostly be half-year jumps. They did not count years but harvests. The Egyptian ceramic paintings have often a time boat with palm leaf in end of season. That became later the year symbol "renpet"

  Hard to tell from small figures but the first figure seems top have buffalo horns and bird head. Maybe we can find a god in Rigveda corresponding to this.

.

Here I comment around 60 symbols/ glyphs. I think these are about practical astronomy and calendar. In the Idaho files I comment around 30 symbols that occurs at the rocks there. Most of them are different from these above. Asko Parpola has listed around 450 symbols and they find new seals every year, so my interpreting is just a fraction of the whole. Asko knows the Indian culture and the languages and he can interpret at least some of the texts and symbols that are outside my knowledge.

My interest is mainly the rituals and the astronomy since I am searching for explanations to Scandinavian symbolism and meet similarity in all the big cultures of the past. I simply have to know much about the roots to European culture by studying the better known cultures in south.

Naturally the rural year was in centre from the beginning. Gradually it changed with city culture and the bonds to fertility and environment faded out. It is only natural that in cities the initial problems are relations and organisation is in focus. Myth and legend try to sort out and find model in the past for solving new problems. On that road the store of myths grows and grows and become chaos so that priests are need for sorting it out to ordinary people.