mapped out astronomically at the celestial pole. This in mythology is the mount of the north, the mount of the cow, of the haunch, the navel, the womb, the leg, the meskhen and other images of the birthplace on earth applied to the place of rebirth in heaven. In Borneo the native guides pointed to the summit of Mount Kina-Balu as the landing-place of the ancestral souls. They showed the meat on which the spirits fed, but did not dare to pass the night in this abode of the re-arisen dead, or rather the local likeness of the celestial mount. In the Rocky Mountains, near Denver, is the “Garden of the Gods” and the mount of ascent up which the manes climb to attain the summit of life and happiness. So is it in West Java, where the mountain Gunung Danka is described as being the site of paradise, which means, here as elsewhere, that the paradisaical mountain was the earthly local representative of the celestial mount of glory.
“The Path of the Shades,” by Basil Thomson, in the New Review, April, 1896, p. 417, contains an account of the Fijian sacred mountain Nakauvandra, together with the motive for rearing it. According to local tradition, the ghosts of the dead were great disturbers of the living. They were willing to leave this earth if they could but make their way to the sacred mountain by which the heaven of rest was reached. The tribes then banded together to make a road for the ghosts to travel over on their last journey, so that they might trouble the living no more. In the year 1892 a surveyor employed to traverse the boundaries of native lands in Fiji re-discovered this most ancient Via Sacra, or pathway of the shades. He was taken by his guides along the crest of a high ridge, the water-shed between the Rewa river and the eastern coast of the island of Vitilevu. Cutting a way through the undergrowth, he found that the path on which he walked was level, and was seldom more than two feet wide; that hill top was joined to hill top by a razor-edged embankment. He reflected that nature never works in straight lines with so soft a material as earth: that natural banks of earth are always washed into deep depressions by the rains until they become mere rounded uneven slopes. And when his guides had cleared away a patch of the undergrowth, he came upon unmistakable proof that the embankment on which he stood was artificial. The little glens had been bridged with causeways, thirty or forty feet in height in the deepest parts, tapering to a feather-edge at the top, so as to form a winding path along the line of the hill tops that extended, so the natives said, clear to Nakauvandra, the sacred mountain, forty miles away. For a people without spades or picks, the piling of this embankment must have been a gigantic task. Every pound of earth must have been carried up laboriously in little cocoanut-leaf baskets, and paid for in daily feasts to the workers. And all to represent the road to heaven.
Whatsoever the means of ascent, the toil of climbing up to heaven was stupendous. The Mexican Mount Culhuacan, for instance, is a Hill Difficulty indeed. The upper part is formed of sand so fine that it offers no foothold for any mortal tread. This is a mode of showing, not merely saying, how hard it is to climb, and none but righteous spirits could attain the paradise upon the summit.
Naturally the staircase, as the work of human hands, is comparatively late. But it follows, as the pathway from the tomb. At
Abydos, the seat of Osiris as god in the highest is at the head of the staircase, when he was the power presiding over the pole of heaven (Rit., chs. 7 and 22). Thebes was another city in which the celestial staircase was imaged. As it is said in the inscription of Queen Hatshepsu, “Thebes is a heaven upon earth. It is the august staircase of the beginning of time. It is the Utat of the universal Lord, his heart’s throne, which sustains his glories and holds within it all who accompany him” in the circle of Osiris, who presided at the top of the steps above the pole of heaven. (Rit., ch. 7; Records, vol. XII, p. 133.) The mound or stairway with the seven steps was permanently figured in the seven-stepped pyramid of Sakkarah as an image of the mount with steps that showed the way to heaven in the astronomical mythology. The ambition of the Babel-builders, described in the book of Genesis, is to erect “a tower whose top may reach to heaven” (Gen. XI. 4). Here the tower with seven tiers takes the place of the mount with seven steps or tree of seven branches, or the ladder, as a mode of reaching the summit of attainment.
The pillar follows the mount as a co-type of the pole, first as a pillar of wood, then as a pillar of stone, or metal, or of glass. In various legends the celestial pole is imaged as a pillar of glass or other slippery substance, which also indicates the difficulty of getting to heaven. This is the pillar by which the manes make their ascent every Sabbath day from the lower to the upper paradise; and having got a glimpse of all the glory, they slide down again into the subterranean world (Yalkut Kadash, f. 57. c. 2, Stehelin, vol. II, p. 25).
It is related in a Taoist work that once upon a time a Chinese king endeavoured to climb up to heaven by a pillar of enormous height, but it was so slippery that he always slid back again to the ground (Chinese Repository, vol. VII, p. 519). And without doubt this slippery pillar still survives as the greasy pole of the British pastimes, which are not continued for their grossness, but because they once had a sacred significance. In this, the heaven of eternal plenty on the mount is represented by the leg of mutton at the top of the pole.
The slippery pole or pillar of glass can be paralleled in the Odyssey. “One rock reaches with sharp peak up to the wide heaven, and a dark cloud encompasses it. No mortal man may scale it or set foot thereon, for the rock is sheer and smooth as if it were polished.”
This is not the mundane mount where mortals find their foothold, but the celestial mount, which none but spirits ever scaled in any form of the mythology. When glass began to be manufactured it would supply the material for a very perfect likeness to the aërial mount of heaven. The tower of glass would succeed the tower of brick and the mound of earth. There is a story told by Nennius in his Historia Britannium of “Nimeth the second who came to Erin,” and who, in sailing the ocean with his thirty vessels (luni-solar month), sees a glass tower in the midst of the waters, with men on it who give no answer when they are addressed. This seems to have been because of its height. So in Taliessin’s account of the glass fort of Arthur, “three score hundreds stood upon the wall; it was hard to converse with the watchmen.” Nimeth attacks the tower, and all his thirty vessels are sunk or wrecked. (Rhys, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 263-264; Skene,
Book of Taliessin, vol. II, 155.) Taliessin the Bard professes to have been in the tower of glass as well as in Amenta or Hades. This juxtaposition of the tower with the nether-world shows that the dome of glass was a form of the celestial summit. There is a glass hill in the Norse folk-tales. The princess is only to be won by the youth who can ride up the hill of glass. The ash-lad, a male counterpart of Cinderella, is the only one who at all succeeds. At the first trial he rides a third of the way up, and the king’s daughter rolls a golden apple down to him. On the second day he rides two-thirds of the way up, and wins a second golden apple. On the third day he ascends to the top of the hill, and takes the third apple from the lap of the princess. Of course he wins the daughter of the king and half the kingdom besides. In this version the glass hill is the mount of the pole. The king in these märchen is Ra in the Egyptian mythos. The princess was Hathor, goddess of love. The kingdom in two halves was the double earth. Horus wins the second half, and unites the two into one kingdom by climbing the hill of glass and winning the princess as his wife. The tree on which the golden apples grew is the tree of dawn, the tree of Hathor the princess. The hero, who is the king’s son, sometimes lives as a kitchen-lad beneath the stairs; and in the mythos the staircase is a co-type with the mount or hill of glass. This shows that the stairs stand in the lower world, where the fire of old suns and moons will explain the ashes in which the cinder-girl or ash-lad proverbially sit in their poor and lowly estate when the moon and sun are in the nether earth.
One typical mode of rising to heaven was by means of a dense column of smoke! This was acted by kindling a fire on the grave of the deceased, so that the spirit might ascend as it were in a chariot of cloud. (Samoa, Turner, pp. 199 and 335.) The Samoans explained that this was done to save the soul from sinking into the pit. The same type was obviously continued in the smoke of incense rising from the altar. Other illustrations might be cited to show that the ladder by which the wizard, witch, or conjurer sought to reach the land of spirits was imaged by means of something drawn out of or in some way emitted from his mouth, a mere thread, a film, a substance like gossamer, which probably represents the spirit in a filamental form, when the soul was identified with the breath or under the same name as it is in the Egyptian word “nef” for breath and spirit. Thus the substance drawn from the mouth of the wonder-worker represented a kind of ladder as the visible mode of ascent for the soul exhibited in primitive mysteries. The mystery is still extant and still performed to a gaping crowd in the English market-place, when the conjurer, who is now an acrobat, draws from his mouth a ladder or spiral pole made of shavings, or shall we call it the cone of the pole, which was once a figure of the ascent to heaven, that was followed by the ladder and the steps, the pyramid, the Babel-tower, the minaret and spire, until its final form upon the lowermost line of descent became the pinnacle made in spiral coils of shavings proceeding upward from the conjurer’s mouth by dexterous sleight of hand, as the great mount of god, the staircase of Osiris, the figure of the pole at its final vanishing point. Thus the conjurer’s twist of shavings drawn from his mouth may illustrate a mode of the mysteries when it
was taught that the soul of breath came forth from the mouth as its own ladder or means of ascent to the upper world.
Another illustration of the difficulty in climbing up to heaven may be seen in the ladder formed of knives which is made use of by the Taoist jugglers in China. This is constructed of two upright bamboos, with knives or sword-blades set between, edge uppermost, for steps. The ladder was a co-type with the mount and steps of ascent. The Japanese have a mythical mountain called Kurahashi, the dark ladder. The speaker, in a passage quoted by O’Neil, says he climbs this vertical ladder by the aid of his sister. “Steep though Kurahashi be, steep it is not when I climb it with my sister” (The Night of the Gods, vol. II, p. 1015). The sister is a goddess whom we look upon as lunar. There was also a ladder-mount near Ptolemais which is mentioned by Josephus (Jew. War, II, 70). Certain sacred hills in England, called the “Step Hills,” repeat the ladder of ascent to heaven. There is one near Ivinghoe (Bucks) which is evidently an artificial formation. Cader Idris is reputed to have had 365 steps from bottom to summit. The Egyptians solemnized a feast of the dead or festival of the steps, by which they celebrated the ascent of the manes from the valley of Amenta to the summit of the mount.
When bridges were built, a bridge supplied the typical means of crossing the celestial waters. The earliest figure of a bridge in heaven was probably the rainbow. This was the Norse bridge made by the gods that reached from earth to the height of heaven and down again to the earth, and was therefore a visualized way for the coming and going of souls. In the Prose Edda, Gangler asks, “Which is the path leading from earth to heaven?” The answer of Har is, “Hast thou not been told that the gods made a bridge from earth to heaven and called it Bifrost? But perhaps thou callest it the rainbow.” (Prose Edda, 13.) The name of Bifrost denotes the evanescent aërial bridge. The rainbow is certainly a form of the celestial bridge, though possibly the type may not have been Egyptian. It is a pathway for spirits to the Brahmanic Svarga. It is the snake-bridge that crosses the river of the dead to the dwelling beyond in a North American Indian version of the mythos. Also, the souls of Maori chieftains are supposed to mount heavenward by means of the rainbow. The Samoans called the rainbow Laa Maomao, the great step or the long step of the god (Turner, Samoa, p. 35). Wang-liang, or the king’s bridge, is a constellation in the Chinese planisphere which is described as the bridge that spans the moat of the ruler’s castle. This is crossed by kings and chieftains when they go to pay their homage to the monarch. The moat was also crossed by boat. This moat corresponds to the waterway of the Egyptians, and to the “way which is above the earth”; in short, the galaxy on which the souls of the dead were carried in the bark of Ra (Rit., ch. 4). The symbols of the garden of peace, including the kissing doves, may be seen portrayed upon the ordinary willow-pattern china plate. The bridge survives in some old British ballads as the “Brig o’ Dread.” One of these is called “a lyke-wake dirge,” in which the journey of the dead is described. In “Lady Culross’s Dream” it is “a narrow bridge of tree” suspended over an unfathomable gulf. But, as Scott
points out, the most minute description of “the Brig o’ Dread” occurs in the legend of Sir Owain, who, after many frightful adventures in St. Patrick’s purgatory=Amenta, arrives at the bridge which, in the legend, is placed between purgatory and paradise.
“Lo! Sir Knight, see’st thou this?
This is the Bridge of paradis.
Here over thou must go.
Whoso falleth off the Brigge adown,
For him is no redemption.”
He falls into the void of Apap, or the lake of outer darkness. The moral of the dirge is that whatsoever good works have been done on earth will be waiting at the bridge and help the deceased to cross the gulf. (Scott, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.)
The pyramid is an artificial figure of the mount as means of the ascent to heaven. And now, if we place ourselves with the mummy at the bottom of the Well, we shall see that the tubular shaft of the great pyramid at Gizeh represented the way to heaven as it was imaged to Egyptian thought. The Pharaoh resting at the foot might scan not merely the starry vast, but could fix his gaze in death upon the heaven of spirits at the summit of the mount, the paradise of peace, the enclosure that was finally configurated in the circle of the seven pole-stars that crossed his telescope (the passage pointing northward) one by one in the circuit of precession, or the heaven of eternity. The pole-star, a Draconis, was not the only one that would come within range of that great tube. The great pyramid was founded on the Egyptian astronomy, but was not built simply to register the fact that a Draconis was the fixed point and polar pivot of all the stellar motion during some 3,700 years in the vast circuit of precession. The ceilings of the pyramid chambers were sprinkled over with stars to resemble the face of the sky by night. Astronomical tables gave the aspect of the heavens tenat by tenat throughout the year. So that the manes “had but to lift their eyes” and see in what part of the firmament the course lay night after night. Thus, lying in his sarcophagus, the dead man found his future destinies depicted thereon, and learned to understand the blessedness of the gods. (Maspero, Egyptian Archy., Eng. trans., pp. 158-160.) The chief course was mapped out along the river of the Milky Way, as is shown in the Ritual, by the boat of souls ascending to the polar paradise. The deceased, who is about to rise again and set his legs in motion, prays that he may “go up to Sekhet-Aarru, and arrive in Sekhet-Hetep.” Lying as the mummy in Amenta, he says “I shine above the leg as I come forth in heaven, but (here, meantime) I lie helpless with a corpse-like face. I faint. I faint before the teeth of those whose mouth raveneth in the nether-world.” (ch. 74, Renouf.) The cynosure of the watcher is a point above the constellation called “the leg” by the Egyptian astronomers. This was a constellation in the northern sky which has been identified by Renouf with the group of Cassiopeia, and which the Egyptians named the meskhen or creatory of the cow. The earliest figure of an ark in heaven, or on the waters of the Nun, was that of Horus on his papyrus-reed, who issued as the soul of life in vegetation from the abyss. As the sacred bark borne heavenward in the mysteries shows, this was a figure of the papyrus-
flower which had been the cradle of Child-Horus previous to its being imaged in the eschatology or astronomy. When the boat was built the souls of the deceased were ferried over the waters in the mythical bark which was at first stellar, next lunar, and lastly solar. There is a bark that voyaged round the pole as Ursa Minor, with seven souls or glorious ones on board, seen in the seven stars that never set, a primary type of the eternals. In another text we find a prayer for the deceased, “that he may reach the horizon with his father the sun, in the solar bark; that his soul may rise to heaven in the disc of the moon; that his Sahu (or celestial body) may shine in the stars of Orion, on the bosom of heaven” (Book of Sen-Sen, Records, vol. IV, p. 121). Here are three forms of the boat of souls, one in the stellar, one in the lunar, and one in the solar representation, at three different stages of the mythos. Modern astronomy speaks of the starry vast as a revolving sphere, where the ancient wisdom called it the ship of heaven or the bark of eternity. At first the superhuman force that hauled the system round was thought of as a mighty monster swi}ming the celestial lake—a hippopotamus or a crocodile, or a compound of both. This was the Great Mother of the revolutions, who was constellated as the primum mobile, the goddess Apt depicted in the Great Bear as the procreant womb of life, the mother and nurse of universal life. Seven powers were born of her, and represented under different types as hippopotami, crocodiles, jackals, apes or uas-eared animals. Seven such were figured as the pullers round the pivot of the pole. When the boat was launched the seven were grouped as seven kabbirs or sailors in the Lesser Bear that made the voyage nightly, annually, and for ever round the mount. They were likewise portrayed as seven tow-men of the starry vast, and haulers of the solar boat, the bark of millions of years, the vessel that was rowed by the twelve kings or twelve great gods around the final zodiac. We learn from the solar mythos that the rope of the towers was made fast to the star Ak, which is to be identified with the pole. The tow-men say, “The rope is with Ak.” “Ra calls it, and the rope puts itself in its place.” Ra is then in Amenta, and the rope of the towers is fastened at the upper end to the pole. Ra says, “Power to you, towers. Tow me to the dwelling of stable things. Free yourselves on this mysterious mountain of the horizon.” This towing upward of the solar bark is one of the great mysteries of Amenta. (Book of Hades, VI, pp. 8-32.) The “navigators for this great god” who tow the boat are also said to take their oars and row for Ra. Ra says to them, “Take your oars, unite yourselves to your stars.” “O my pilots, you shall not perish, gods of the never-setting stars” (Akhemu-Seku). Thus the solar boat or ship of heaven was navigated by the gods of the non-setting stars who voyaged round about the pole; who did not sink below the horizon, but became the lords of eternity.
A Chinese constellation in the Milky Way is called “the ship of heaven,” and the “ship of Nu” as Egyptian IS the ship of heaven by name. It is sailed over the void of the Apap-reptile or dragon of darkness, also called the lake of Putrata, into which the souls fall headlong who do not secure salvation on board the bark, and have no other means of attaining the “tip of heaven” in the Aarru-paradise
(Rit., ch. 99). The ship Argo Navis, as a constellation, is a reduced form of “the ark of heaven” which is described in the Ritual (ch. 99). Four parts of the ship of Nu remain in the Arabic figure of Argo Navis, viz., the “poop,” the “keel,” the “mast,” and the “sail.” In the Ritual the “ship of Nu” is described in all its parts. “Backbone of Apuat” is the name of the keel. Akar (in Amenta) is the name of the hold. “Leg of Hathor” is the name of the hull. The “two columns of the nether-world” is the name of the stem and stern posts, or masts. “Amsta, Hapi, Tuamutef, and Kabhsenuf” are the names of the ribs; “Nut” is the name of the sail. “Bearer of the great one whilst she passeth” is the name of the mast. “Lord of the double earth in the shrine” is the name of the mooring-post. The foundation was laid on, or in, the backbone of Anup, which was once the type of stability as a figure of the pole, the earliest fixed foundation laid in the building of the heavens. Akar is another name for Amenta, the hollow nether-world of three, this ship being a three-decker. Amsta, Hapi, Tuamutef, and Kabhsenuf are the supports of the sky at the four corners or sides of the vessel. They are also the four oars of the vessel. The mooring-post was an image of the pole, to which the stellar ark or solar bark was fastened by the cable, as it made the voyage round the starry mount. The ship of heaven, then, is a figure of the nether-world in its hold and of the four quarters in its ribs, which are also represented as the four paddles, one at each of the cardinal points. This was constellated in the heavens as an ark that made the voyage up the Milky Way to the tip of heaven and the place of coming forth upon the mount of glory. The ship of heaven was an ark of salvation for souls. Those who did not find safety on board are described as falling headlong into the gulf of Putrata where the dragon Apap lurked to devour them. Now, in the planisphere the constellation Hydra is next to the ship Argo, and Hydra the water-snake is identical in character and position with the Apap-reptile who devoured those that fell into the void, otherwise the bottomless pit of the abyss. A knowledge of this ship and its constituent parts, together with the course of its journey through the heavens, was necessary to the initiate in making his passage to the paradise of the pole. The Osiris was not allowed to pass on board unless he could answer every question put and tell the name of every part of the vessel. The names given show that the different parts of the vessel were configurated in the stars according to the mythical types, and that the mystery was astronomical. Finally, the great bark of salvation was solar, with Horus at the outlook. The deceased prays to the god who is on board, “O Ra, in that thy name of Ra, since thou passest through those who perish headlong: do thou keep me standing on my feet.” “Are you coming into the bark?” says the great god Atum-Ra, with a naïve familiar invitation that reminds us somewhat of the invitation “come with us” of more recent salvationists. “The bark advanceth. Acclamation cometh from the mount of glory and greeting from the lines of measurement.” These are the cheers with which the boat is hailed and welcomed by the inhabitants of the upper paradise. “Lo, the lamp is lifted up in Annu” as a light by night to lead them on the way when they come to the heaven of the stars that set, and
they have to steer by the pole-star as their guide of ways. While the Osiris passes over the waters to the west the Khabsu gods get ready for lighting up the heavens with their starry lamps, to greet the passengers approaching in the bark with acclamations of great joy. “All right is the Osiris; his future is in Annu,” the eternal city at the pole. The glorified deceased sails in the great bark on the stream of the god Hetep, the White Way, until he comes to the ten divisions of the circumpolar paradise. These he enters to take possession of them one by one. As an astronomical foundation, the upper paradise of all mythology upon the mount of glory was dependent on establishing the celestial pole for a fixture in the waters of surrounding space, or, as the Ritual phrases it, “a mooring-post” for the ship of souls. Here was the rock of safety and the tree to which the sinking spirits clung for their salvation. Here the mariner says, “I make myself fast to the block of moorage on the heavenly stream.” That is, to the pole which was figured as the final mooring-post upon the landing-stage of an eternal shore.
The Kamite paradise, as an enclosure of the water and the tree of life upon the summit of the mount, is traceable in four different forms. At first it was the primitive paradise of the Oasis in the south. Next it is the circumpolar paradise of Am-Khemen, upraised by Anhur in the north. The third one is the paradise of Atum in the garden of Amenta. The final paradise was founded on the mount of glory for the spirits of the just made perfect in the heaven of eternity. Thus there are four types of paradise. And these apparently are enumerated and described in Irish legendary lore when Cesair, “the first woman who landed in Ireland before the Flood,” says of her great knowledge, “Truly I am well versed in the world’s history, for Inis Patmos is precisely the earth’s fourth paradise, the others being (1) Inis Daleb in the world’s southern, (2) Inis Escandra in its boreal part, and (3) Adam’s paradise.” The fourth paradise is that in which the righteous dwell who have attained to everlasting life (Adventures of Teigue, Son of Cian, Nutt, The Happy Otherworld, p. 203). In such ways relics of the astronomical mythology remain unrecognized in many scattered fragments of the ancient wisdom.