Modern man is like a moth to the flame; we run toward the light even if it kills us. Our world is becoming so illuminated that we no longer see a clear bright night sky. But ancient men and women had no lights to distort their view. Looking at the stars for them was literally a religious experience. We look up and see a bunch of stars; they are pretty but not very meaningful to most of us. But the ancient people looked up and saw a movie. Characters fought and killed each other. Hercules guarded the entry to Hades, Orion (Osiris), Isis (Sirius), and Set (Draco) had family squabbles. Osiris had a bull fight with Taurus. And the scorpion would sting you if you wronged another.
As the twelve constellations of the zodiac moved around the sky, the ancient ones saw their future unfolding. Sometimes the future was bright; and sometimes the sky brought warnings of tough times ahead. But for them, following the north star was much more than just a metaphor for finding your bliss.
The stars were their primary navigation tool. One nomad giving directions to another might tell them to follow a particular star. In the desert, the stars were the only thing predictable. A mound of sand can change shape quickly making it completely unrecognizable. But stars are predictable and move slowly.
There is a tendency to make fun of these ancient ones. How primitive their stories, and how immature their pantheon of Gods. And yet, we’ve not changed much. While they were star struck with the drama of the sky Gods, we westerners tend to be star struck with our human stars. We idolize performers of all sorts; we treat our sports stars as if they hold our life in their hands; we do what our politicians tell us to do even if it is wrong or bad for us; and once we admire someone, we rarely challenge what they say or do. We may have changed the type of stars we worship over time but not the way we see them. Osiris has been replaced by Brad Pitt. Isis by Angelina Jolie. Our stars often disappear over the horizon and appear to have temporarily fallen out of the sky–just ask Tiger Woods or Brittany Spears. It’s so normal to us that we don’t notice that we are even more silly than the ancient star worshippers.
Imagine the desert bedouin looking at us. “Those crazy people sit and hold a long, skinny stone in their hands that they point at a funny box that has people in it. They call the people in the box stars. They worship those people in the box like Gods. They do what they advise. They try to look like them and act like them. These people are nuts. They let the funny box determine their future.” Get my point. Who’s the crazy one?
In truth, our stories are their stories redone. Just as the Lion King was just a Disney remake of Isis and Osiris, we find themes and archetypes in our modern movies that are not that different from the jealous, fighting Gods that the ancient ones saw in the skies. When we take away the wrapping, humans have not changed that much. We really are much more alike than we are different. Times have not changed–we are still a big bunch of star worshippers.
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