A roman floor mosaic exposes an unusual ecliptic with messy months. The presence of Aion and his mother Tellus is too much intriguing to be uninvolved.
Ancient romans were known for their precision, to the point to give up creativity for the sake of a narrow-minded accuracy. But in the image we are examining, perhaps for the first time, we can see a zodiacal wheel with evident anomalies: Aries misses its customary vernal place to be deposited in a disarranged Fall, between Virgo and Sagittarius, with Scorpio just before Capricorn. Nevertheless Aion holds Pisces, as usual.
The picture shows the central part of a floor mosaic in a villa in Sentinum, in modern times known as Sassoferrato in Marche ( Italy). Today the piece is conserved in the Munich Glyptothek. The probable dating is about 200 – 250 A.D.
The young man inside the zodiacal wheel without vagueness represents Aion, based on the fact that he was very often portrayed in this way. Aion was a complex character in ancient western mythology. He may appear as belonging to an advanced mythological stage. In fact he is often considered during gnostic times. Nevertheless Aion is, besides Demeter and her kore Persephone, sometimes taken as son of Tellus, the very ancient roman earth goddess, deity of fertility and death, indeed.
Apart from Aion, here Tellus has other four children, that we can see represented in the mosaic. Generally they represented the four season, since Tellus was also worshipped as crops deity. In fact the children wear seasonal ornaments, such as fruits, ears of corn, ice crystals and hunting weapons. They seem to support the hypothesis of the flowing of the yearly time.
Tellus cult was probably more ancient than the official roman religion. She is the Earth, to be more precise the mother Earth, who appeared soon after the Chaos and was source of all gods and goddesses. She can be identified with Gea, or Gaia, the Uranus spouse. Kronos, the Time was said to be one of her sons. And Aion is an aspect of time. As I said in another article on Aion (1) Homer uses the term Αἰών, transliterated as Aion, to designate a Life time, not the eternal time. But, in Alchemy, a Life time can be extended to eternity. In fact Aion is also associated with mystery religions and after Life.
So here we are before a Life time inscribed in a zodiacal wheel. But it is a zodiacal wheel just to our modern eyes.
Back at Roman times they used this ornate circled object to design the ecliptic, or the path of the Sun orbiting the Earth, since they believed in the Ptolemaic concept. And, from a practical point of view, we still continue to see the Sun moving from East to West. The Sun beams are still differently hitting the Earth during the seasons. So it is very unlikely that those ornate circles did represent astrological events, but Sun events. Or the every day difference within the light hitting the Earth (2).
So, in my opinion, Aion, in his very sense of Time portion, is here designating precise moments of the year. This is a very alchemical concept, since our works are useless without the monitoring of the time (3). We know there is a link between Aion and Pisces. This link is a physical astronomical connection, not vaguely symbolic. In this sense we can let C. G. Jung, and his “Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self”, peacefully sleep.
Pisces comes befores Aries and, like Aries, is a vernal border. But Pisces comes before what we commonly, and esoterically, know about the vernal equinox. We are used to be told of the exact equinoctial day, that’s to say March 21. If we look carefully at this chart, Aries has even been removed from its normal springtime position. Simply, in this mosaic piece, Aries is not after Pisces and before Taurus. It lies on the autumnal side, which apparently is even more messy than the other side of the ecliptic. In fact Aries strangely comes after Virgo and introduces Sagittarius, which in turn precedes Libra which is, this time, correctly before Scorpio. A series of closes up are produced below, for the sake of the ones who want to see a bull and not a ram. But, even in the case, we couldn’t deny the evidence of a misplaced Taurus in Autumn.
We can easily guess why Aion holds the ecliptic from Pisces position. He indicates the period just before the official equinox peak. As a matter of fact the week before March 21 seems to be chiefly important in Alchemy. But am I talking of a cycle’s beginning, or the accomplishment of it? In the operative Alchemy branch dealing with the raw matters gathering, this week is important for picking up and magnetize the matters from which we will extract our Mercurius ( see an Opus Magnum scheme). So, in this art-discipline, Pisces represents the very beginning of all operations. I am here talking of the extraction of Spirit of Life and Soul from metals, chiefly.
Considering these operations, the other side of this ecliptic seems to start with Scorpio, Libra, Sagittarius and has its final accomplishment in Aries. But here we can see Scorpio heels Capricorn which is, once more, temporarily and astrologically erroneous.
When considering the other branch of Alchemy, the human one and the extraction of Soul ( which shows mostly reasonable the presence of the Life time deity), we can inversely keep Pisces for an accomplishment time. In fact in astrology too, Pisces is the last zodiacal sign. And Aries the first. But surely not after Virgo.
If someone is supposing to be before a featured representation of Aion and his ecliptic, this is not true. On the left we can see a rendering of Phanes deity conserved in Musei Vaticani, who has been associated with Aion by Quispel (and frankly it’s hard to prove him wrong), in which all the astrological signs are in their right and canonical positions.
And what about the two trees? Some art critics say they represent a living and dead tree. I repute this statement to be a forcing. Can we candidly affirm the tree behind Tellus mother is a dead tree? I don’t know, I think to see leaves on it. So we are not sure the trees to represent life and death or, as most orthodox case, symbols of vernal and autumnal periods. It would be an easy interpretation to give the living tree as a vernal months representation, while the apparently dead one the dead part of the year. But the strange inaccuracy of Aries missed things up.
So, what can we conclude? As far as I know, Aion is correctly holding Pisces time. Concerning the other messy up signs, keep in mind that inaccuracy, or ignorance, back at that time, were immensely improbable.