"Every new beginning comes from
some other beginning's end"
- Seneca, Roman philosopher
From ancient Sumer, a civilization which may arguably pre-date
ancient Egypt, we get the Sumerian Sphinx. The Sumerian
Sphinx has four distinct features, or elements: the head of man,
wings, the body of a lion, and the feet of a bull.
Thousands of years later, we see these same four features being
expressed in the Alchemical, Hermetic and religious paintings of
those times. These four features, are expressed in these paintings
in the following manner: a bull in the lower left corner of the painting,
a lion in the lower right corner of the painting, an eagle in the upper
right corner of the painting, and man in the upper left corner of the
The bull, lion, eagle and man which appear in these paintings
occur in the same order, and sequence, as they appear on an
astrological chart; and in the zodiac. A perfect example of this
order is expressed in the Tarot card, The World.
This identical sequence also appears on the Tarot card,
Wheel of Fortune
It is interesting to find that these four elements - the bull, the lion,
wings ( the eagle ), and man - have survived, and endured,
throughout the millennia.
Why would the ancient Sumerians create a mythological creature,
an archetype, consisting of these four elements?
And furthermore, what is it that is so powerful about these four
elements that their importance survived the millennia in order to
re-appear once again in Alchemical, Hermetic and religious
paintings thousands of years later?
The Four Pillars of Heaven:
Since the most ancient of times, mankind has worshipped four
specific cardinal points of the year: the two Equinoxes and the
Temple windows, megaliths and monoliths were aligned so as
to greet and worship the Sun at these four important and sacred
moments of the year.
Ancient cultures referred to these four sacred times of the year
as the Four Pillars which support the Sky; or the Four Pillars
which support the Vault of Heaven.
Why are these four times of the year referred to as the Four
Pillars? These four times of the year are equidistant from each
other; they occur approximately 90 days apart and represent
one-fourth of the year. Also, being equidistant, they are also,
astrologically, 90 degrees apart from each other and represent
one-fourth of a Circle; or one-fourth of the earth's annual Cycle.
We still recognize these four times of the year today: the
Spring Equinox, the Autumn Equinox, the Winter Solstice,
and the Summer Solstice.
And though, today, these four sacred times of the year are
celebrated commercially rather than worshipped spiritually, a
respect for these four important heavenly Events still survives
Precession of the Equinoxes (Ages of the Zodiac):
The earth wobbles on its axis in a clock-wise direction in relation
to the heavens. It takes approximately 25,920 years for it to
complete one complete wobble. This one complete wobble is
referred to, astrologically, as The Great Year.
During each Great Year, the Sun travels ( precesses ) through
each of the twelve constellations of the ecliptic, or zodiac,
in a slow and clock-wise direction. The word zodiac means
"circle of animals".
The time the Sun spends in each constellation is called a
Precessional Age. Each Precessional Age is determined by
which constellation of the zodiac the sun is rising in at dawn on
the Spring ( Vernal ) Equinox. Each Precessional Age lasts for
approximately 2,160 years.
We are currently at the end of the Age of Pisces and preparing
to enter ( precess into ) the Age of Aquarius. And, as we shall see,
Aquarius is one of the components of both the Sumerian Sphinx
and the Alchemical, Hermetic and religious drawings mentioned
at the beginning of this article.
In each Precessional Age the Sun rises in four complimentary
constellations, which are 90 degrees apart, at a specific time of
the year for the duration of that Particular Age. These four
constellations are the Four Pillars of that Precessional Age.
In the current Precessional Age of Pisces, the Sun rises in Pisces
at the Spring Equinox, in Virgo at the Autumn Equinox, and in
Gemini and Sagittarius at the Solstices.
When the Age of Pisces is ended the Sun will precess into
Aquarius and cause the Four Pillars to churn, which will result in
the following: the Sun will rise in Aquarius at the Spring Equinox,
in Leo at the Autumn Equinox, and in Taurus and Scorpio at the
Because the Four Pillars of any specific Precessional Age are
90 degrees apart from one another, each of the Four Pillars is
situated in one of the four different astrological elements of either
fire, earth, air, or water.
The act of precession from one Astrological Age into another is
also represented, Symbolically and mythologically, as the
Churning of the Mill and is often depicted by mythological Gods
or Heroes holding the head and tail of a great Serpent, which is
wrapped around a central pillar. These Gods or Heroes then
churn this pillar by alternately pulling either the head or tail of the
Serpent as one would do today in a game of "tug-of-war". The
Serpent represents the constellation Draco, which is entwined
within the branches of The World (or Cosmic) Tree.
In mythology, we also encounter a "broken pillar" which some God
or Hero ultimately re-sets. The broken pillar symbolizes the end of
one Precessional Age, while the re-setting of the pillar represents
the beginning of the next Precessional Age. The broken pillar is
normally re-set by the particular God, Hero or Archetype who will
be ruling, or governing, the new Precessional Age.
The Sumerian Sphinx:
Let us now consider the Symbolism which is contained within
the Sumerian Sphinx. Again, the Sumerian Sphinx has the feet of
a bull, the body of a lion, wings, and the head of man. And, again,
these are the same four features which later appear in the
Alchemical, Hermetic and religious paintings mentioned above.
So, what are we to make of this enigmatic, mythological creature
which comes down to us from some ancient race?
The feet of the bull represent the constellation Taurus. The
body of a lion represents the constellation Leo. The wings
(which are later expressed as an eagle) represent the
constellation Scorpio. And, the head of man represents the
These four constellations are 90 degrees apart from each other.
Therefore, because they are 90 degrees apart, it is quite probable
that they represent a Precessional Age. What is also interesting
to note is that these are the same four constellations, or pillars,
which will be involved in the upcoming Age of Aquarius.
So, the question now remains: If this mythological archetype,
this Sumerian Sphinx, is Symbolic of a Precessional Age, which
Precessional Age is it?
There is evidence which seems to point to the Age of Leo as the
Precessional Age being described by the four features of the
Sumerian Sphinx. If so, then we are looking at a Precessional Age
which occurred approximately 10,500 BC!
But why choose the constellation of Leo, represented by the
body of a lion, from among the four constellations which are
represented by the Sumerian Sphinx?
To answer this question, we now turn to the Egyptian Sphinx.
The Egyptian Sphinx:
Proportions, ratios and exact alignment were critical factors that
played an important role in the artwork, and in the construction
of temples, buildings and statues, of the ancient Egyptians.
Attention to detail was an ingrained aspect of their culture.
And, attention to detail is what kept them in Harmony with
the Law of Maat.
The Egyptian Sphinx, as it exists today, consists of two features:
the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh.
However, according to ancient Greek historians, the Egyptian
Sphinx originally had the body of a lion and the head of a
The pharaoh's head, which is a current feature of the Egyptian
Sphinx, is out of proportion when scaled to the size of the lion's
body. In other words, the current pharaoh's head on the Sphinx is
too small when measured against the size of the lion's body. It is
out of ratio; out of scale; out of Harmony. It is therefore not in
keeping with the Law of Maat; something inconceivable to the
When we consider how detail-, ratio- and alignment-oriented the
ancient Egyptians were in all of their monuments, temples,
statues and artwork, it is nearly impossible to consider that they
would have miscalculated the proper ratio between the Sphinx's
head and the rest of its body. The only alternative is that, at some
time in the distant past, some pharaoh chiseled away the original
head of the Sphinx in order to have his features carved in its place.
Taking all of this into consideration, we are now left with the
reports of the ancient Greek historians which tell us that the
original Egyptian Sphinx had the body of a lion and the head
of a woman.
If this is true, and there is evidence to support this, then the
original Egyptian Sphinx very probably Symbolized the cusp of
a Precessional Age; with the head of a woman representing the
constellation Virgo and the body of a lion representing the
constellation Leo. And, the cusp of the Age of Virgo and the
Age of Leo, as determined by the rising of the Sun on the
Spring Equinox, occurred around 10,500 BC.
So, the question we are left to ponder is this: What is so
significant about the ancient Age of Leo that prompted the
Ancients, the Alchemists and the Hermetists to honor this
particular Precessional Age? An Age that extends itself, in
perpetuity, all the way from the Sumerian Sphinx to our
modern-day Tarot deck? This is our unanswered enigma.
And, perhaps the answer lies in the upcoming Age of
Aquarius which is in direct astrological opposition to the
Age of Leo which occurred one-half of a Great Year ago.
See also: "The Egyptian Sphinx"
Note: Evidence supporting the alteration of the face of the
Egyptian Sphinx can be found, in greater detail, in
Serpent In The Sky by John Anthony West.
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© copyright Joseph Panek 2014