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For me, it has been a long and winding road.  Robert Graves' very interesting book The White Goddess was certainly my inspiration and starting point, and yet, there is much that he gets dead wrong, (never mind I don't believe his central thesis of the alphabet encoding a particular sacrifice ritual) making it hard to recommend him as a source.  He is a poet rather than a scholar, and that is how he has to be read.  

From there I tracked back to things like Isaac Azimov, Moon over Babylon which contains a good description of Planetary Hours--a concept in astrology--but like modern astrologers, he does not seem to know what the planetary hours were actually good for.  Realizing the import was a major breakthrough.  

Clues turn up here and there.  The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer was one.  I was sitting in a concert at a Pagan Festival when I heard it performed for the first time.  I was astonished.  That was when the Planetary Hours clicked into place.  

In Richard Feynman's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman he describes besting the archaeologists in a matter involving Mayan codices and astronomy--specifically picking out the 11959 day Mayan eclipse cycle.  Actually, the cycle of eclipses is 11960 days, and the one day discrepancy is a further hint.  

I spent a month surfing the net reading about the Mayan Calendar.  There is less there than you think.  Much drivel and absurdities.  But again, some good clues.  

But before all of this was cracking out an ordinary Astronomy text and making comparisons of planetary constants.  Ratios of synodic periods are the key.  Since, fortunately, the ancients had the same sky that we do, it is possible to know what they could observe.  They just thought about it differently.  

I will have to post a diary.  

Thanks for your compliment, and interest.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would the Vedic Yugas also fit into paleo-astronomy/astrology?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedic_timeline
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Four_Yugas

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This might be a better link - Frawley is a reknown Vedic Scholar:

http://www.vedanet.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=129

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:50:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the links.  

Good question.  

I don't really know.  The first stage would be to see what those numbers might correspond to in the sky.  Generally, I have been looking at much shorter time-frames.  

The longest cycle I have encountered so far is (one fifth of) 25 800 years (the cycle of precession of the equinoxes) and at this point I can not really justify this--because I do not have an explanation for the one fifth.  And the longest cycle that I have come across that is sure is a 112-year eclipse cycle (actually 1385  months) in an account of the markings on a brass bowl recovered from Arabia and dating from Mohammedian times or possibly earlier (brass is hard to date).  The 56-year cycle of the Dragon against the year can be confidently adduced to the ring of hollow stones at Stonehenge.  This is not an eclipse cycle, but is instead relevant to the elevation of the Moon's path in the sky.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:20:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there a link with the fact that the earliest agricultural systems could have cycle of up to about 50 years between two cultivating of the same field ? We tend to forget some earlier societies did think in the long term - a long term we have forgotten the use of.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:20:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A good point.  Agricultural cycles can exist, and I have no way of finding these, unless they are ALSO linked (by the agriculturalists) to the sky.  But then the sky makes a very useful way of marking.  

On the other hand, while I may know the meaning in the sky, I won't know the meaning on the ground!  So I definitely miss part of what is going on.  

One of my friends is studying mythological structures, and sometimes our results dovetail perfectly.  But that is a study that is even murkier than what I am doing.  At least to me.  ;)  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:41:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How would "paleo-astronomy" help?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:45:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't help, it is just is, you Irish pussy cat ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please, do write a diary about it.

In particular, I would like to know how one can avoid the conceptual trap that Europe fell into in the 18th century which is to go from celestial mechanics to a clockwork universe metaphor.

How would it help if suddenly a large fraction of the population knew about these astronomical cycles? How can one justify organizing one's life around cycles other than those of the sun-earth-moon system? What difference does it make if one has a Venusian calendar?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, Gianne.  Re: palaeo-astronomy, you set this puzzle before, I went searching for the solution(s) to the riddle(s) and...got lost around the dragon (I got to draco and the changes in the moon's height and that relates to eclipses and it seemed to be about eclipses...but I could have that all wrong so...) I would very much appreciate it if you could write your findings up in diary form--very very much appreciate it, thanks!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While it was great fun organizing my thoughts--to the extent that I did--and coming up with clues, I sort of broke off from overload of doing too much at once.  

So I owe you for your diligence, and shall start thinking about what goes into that diary.  

Thank you for your encouragement.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:46:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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