Golden Thigh Pythagoras did not reveal more than notions for ancient navigators and travelers. While alchemists would be interested in his secret thigh wounds.
I’m here really referring to that part of the human leg between the hip and the knee which may seem so hermetically inconsequential. But if the same Pythagoras granted the honor of his attention to a thigh, something essential might be hidden inside.
Iamblichus wrote a “Life of Pythagoras” putting apparently nothing more than anecdotes, but from some of them something interesting may be squeezed: Abari, an erudite Scythian priest of Apollo, came to Sicily to visit Pythagoras. The old man, in a sign of his devotion, gifted his host with the golden arrow he used to make his way through rivers, ponds, and bogs. Pythagoras too applied an exquisite courtesy to his guest by showing him his golden thigh. This outlandish exchange of good manners may cause us to feel confused, but back at that time, this was not the case for those eager to find the right polar star in a dark sky. In fact, Pythagoras was called “Hyperborean Apollo” precisely because of that. Furthermore, Hyperboreans were called “People of the Thigh” by the Greeks. So a connection between the north and thigh begins to appear credible. But why Apollo, or our Perfect Red Sulphur, is tied with the legendary inhabitants of the extreme north? Maybe because our Perfect Red Sulphur has something to do with the extreme north? And if Sulphur does also Mercurius cannot abstain from, it since Sulphur is just a Mercurius more “earthed”. Thus, to put it simply, Secret Fire/Mercurius is greatly affected by the northern sky.
Occasionally, on moonless nights, I step on my roof and love to close my eyes trying to head to the north star, Polaris. But I do not claim Mercurius does the same. Among the few hermetic authors willing to reveal some hints on the topic, Cyliani is perhaps the only one to mention it with his full name, and without paraphrases, when he writes about the Mercurius Nymph being a dropping of the Pole Star. Philalethes veils and unveils it when dealing with the Magnets (1). Fulcanelli, from time to time, seems to deal with it (2), but in Fulcanelli’s style, of course, that’s to say telling the contrary some pages later. Nevertheless, nowadays many alchemists seem to give just a metaphoric significance to the north star. Not Pythagoras, in fact, the ineffable river streaming from the stars was named after him (3).
Some interpretations of the Iamblichus anecdote about Pythagoras showing a thigh to the old Scythian priest, claim the latin term for thigh, coxa or haunch, has to be considered as the sectio aurea (golden section) of the entire leg to the heel. Consequently, when the greek mathematician shows the thigh he would instead reveal the secret of his golden number together with its countless applications. Too much sophistication, indeed, to be alchemically so relevant. As a matter of fact, we can find plenty of mythological examples in which thighs are dealt with without apparent mathematical implications.
Ishtar falls in love with Gilgamesh and asks him to marry her. He refuses, so she gets the infuriated celestial bull against him. But Enkidu comes to Gilgamesh’s rescue, snatches and rips up a bull’s thigh and his genital organ, and throws the pieces to Ishtar who, humiliated and defeated, returns to her sky. As we will see in a coming post, Ishtar stands for our white and luminous Mercurius, the bull is a symbol for the hidden forces connecting earth and sky. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are human heroes searching for immortality, the thigh points at a certain northern sky star or constellation, so Mercurius Sideribus is involved, and the genital organ of the animal symbolizes the Sulphur from the Stars. Finally, the daring act of a mortal stands for the alchemist’s capability to attract and gather the Mercurius Sideribus, or making a magnet, without being a Mercurius/Magnet itself (4).
Greek mythology tells of Dionysus who was removed from the uterus of his burning dying mother Semele and continued his embryonal development sewn and carried inside the thigh of his father Zeus, whereby he adsorbed divine and formidable sap until the day set for his birth. It is to this double birth that Dionysus owed the title Dithyrambos. We will see in a coming post that Dionysus stands for Mercurius and Zeus is the shining God of the sky. But Dionysus is not the only case in the worldwide mythology of a Mercurius God or Goddess to be born, or re-born, from a divine or celestial thigh. According to Dioscorides, there were special amulets to hasten parturition when applied to thighs.
But it is again in ancient Egypt that we have plenty of hints to research on the topic. The scarab goddess Khepera is born by her mother’s thigh and soon begins to follow the Sun. In Alchemy no one would be amazed by a little star (Mercurius) being enhanced by the northern stars and then following the Sun. According to Revelation, Christ has a word of power written on his ‘thigh”.
At this point astronomical implications become apparent: in “Kore Kosmou” Isis says: The universe, like a human being, is portioned out into as many regions as there are limbs in man. Headset to the south of all, right shoulder to the southeast, left shoulder to the southwest; feet below the Bear, right foot beneath its tail, left under its head; thighs beneath those that succeed the Bear; waist beneath the middle stars.”
Francesco Borri, the Italian alchemist friend of Christina of Sweden, narrates of a jealous nymph in love with an unfaithful mortal who later she had killed, but before she wanted to show to the traitor’s friends the most beautiful thigh in the sky: how could that man prefer a terrestrial thigh to the celestial one? Nevertheless, nowadays, too many alchemists seem to prefer the first one.
The Egyptians had a very wide and sophisticated astronomical mythology. In the great temple of Hathor at Denderah, the artist who painted the ceiling illustration puts on display the first rays of the risen sun, Re or Horus (the Sun god) defeating the polar stars of Draconis and the Ursa Major also known as the Plough. The sunbeam or spear is pointed directly at the group of stars which we today call the Ursa Major or the Plough, but which the Egyptians called the “Thigh” or alternately the “Haunch of the Bull”.
The use of the Ursa Major thigh to easily point at Polaris is as very ancient as effective. Nowadays we acknowledge this best-known asterism in northern skies as the “Big Dipper”, which is very easy to recognize. Enlarging the image on the right we can recognize Dubhe, the alpha star of the dipper’s parent constellation Ursa Major, as the luminous point at the upper right. Together with beta star Merak below, the two form a line pointing the way to Polaris and the North Celestial Pole. These two stars together are the Great Bear’s thigh. The formation was apparent from astronomical cartography till the twelfth century, as we can see in the image on the top of the page and the particular one below, taken from a very ancient edition of Aratus codex NLW-MS-735C where Dubhe and Merak form a thigh-pointing a line to the head of Ursa Minor.
Sadly this is not the case with the more recent sky maps since painters and astronomers seem to have lost the ancient knowledge turning the two bears on their axis, to make what in ancient times was the thigh to be now an out-of-place tail. In fact, we know that bears have quite no tails and very long-necked heads. I could provide dozens of these kinds of errors, I could say that quite all the painters from the renaissance to nineteenth-century felt in the same gap. The first image below is a sixteenth-century edition of the same Aratus by Hyginus, but the wrong bear had been already taken as a model. The same inaccurate bear model also appears in other maps.
But Pythagoras puts on display his thigh and fails to mention any animal thigh. In the ceiling of the Seti I burial temple, we can see the figure of a man plowing a bull. Man and bull together form the Ursa Major and this time the thighs containing Dubhe and Merak stars are those of the plowing man.
Nevertheless, a complete understanding of the Egyptian astronomical mythology is far from being reached. The identification of the “thigh” as a totally different constellation from the Greater Bear will alter the reading of certain inscriptions in which the “Thigh” and “Bear” have been mixed up together. For example, when the alignment was made for the Temple of Hathor to be rebuilt at Denderah, in the time of Augustus, the King tells us that he oriented the corners and established the temple as “it took place before” while looking to the sky and directing his gaze to the “thigh” constellation.
In ancient Egypt, there was even an early definition of the northern sky. Before being the place of the “thigh” that was given to a “seat” or a woman sitting in a chair, the lady of the chair usurped the throne of Isis with her seat and the pre-anthropomorphic type that was constellated ages on ages earlier in Egypt as the cow of Nut or heaven, the birthplace of the celestial waters in the mythos, and the place of re-birth. The mother of water in the northern heaven was imaged as the water cow. Another type of birthplace was the thigh or haunch of the cow, and one of the two lakes at the head of the Milky Way in the region of the northern pole was called the “lake of the thigh”. This is in the position of the pole which was the yoke or bond of heaven, and which was known in Babylonia as “the yoke of the enclosure”.
In the land of pyramids, Polaris has often defined the Pillar of Osiris and in ancient China the Jade Pillar.
The same impression of pillar permanence is obtained by fixing a camera to a tripod and making long exposures of the night. The result is sky images filled with star trails around the north celestial pole. A reflection of the Earth’s daily rotation on its axis and the sky seems to rotate around us. The North Celestial Pole (NCP) is easily identified as the point in the sky at the center of all the star trail arcs. The star Polaris makes a very short bright circle near the NCP, it is directly above the axis of our earth at the North Pole so that as our earth spins on its axis it precesses around that point in the sky called the ecliptic center. The impression is of the Earth’s axis pointing toward Polaris, the North Star, near the center of the concentric trails. From a poetic point of view, these images may evoke a tunnel of stars (of course the tunnel is only apparent because in a real 360-degree earth rotation the sun would rise and dominate the frame). Another Egyptian name for the Great Bear stars was the “Serpent Mountain”, which was also repeated with the great serpent winding around the tree or mountain of the north celestial pole.
According to ancient Egyptians the stars that never set, the Eternals, form a type of stability. The Great Bear made her circuit on the outside of the never setting stars, whereas the “leg” or “haunch” was a constellation in the circle of the perpetual apparition. In Egypt too this constellation never set below the horizon, nor did any of its stars go down through the period of the long great year. Egyptians used the binomial stars-thigh to indicate a source of life or a river overflow. The star Phact, whose name means just thigh, was a herald of Horus in the inundation. Egyptians had dozens of stars in their astronomical mythology, but all gave the impression to flow from a south place in the earth to a north place in the sky. In Egyptian myths the deceased, when speaking of their going forth from the tomb, identify this constellation with the place of re-birth above, saying, “I shall shine above the ‘haunch’ as I come forth in heaven”. The Egyptian Milky Way rather than the common bright powdery area in our galaxy was more likely a real “way” to the sky, a mercurial door.
A Mercurial Door may have opening time mechanisms. In 1755 during the archaeological diggings in Ercolano, a city nearby Pompei subjected to the same fate, a strangely ham-shaped solar clock was found. At first, it was supposed to be just a kitchen decoration, but after a thorough examination, it was unquestionably trusted as a roman time solar clock of about 28 b.c. This specimen is known as Viatoria Pensilia, but commonly as the “Prosciutto di Portici” or Portici ham. So an idea of nourishment from the sky can be involved ( or maybe, more prosaically, the item was hanging as a calendar in a kitchen). Together with an idea of time, a calendar event. In fact, when the time is set Dionysus comes out of Zeus thigh to life through a cut. In certain old Egyptian calendars, the periodic triumph of Horus over the plagues of drought and darkness was commemorated by a festival called “the wounding of Sut”. Thus a wound here seems to recall a specific interval of time.
I could provide a huge amount of Egyptian mythological “thigh” hints, but the whole thing would result in confusing chaos since I believe we presently do not have the keys to a whole understanding of the teeming and too sophisticated Egyptian mythology. For now, we must be content with putting some order on the astronomical “Thigh” issue.
Finally, I would like to mention the weird fact of these thighs is very often required to be hollow, like bones, or like the thigh bones. Or flutes, since back at that time these whistling (5) musical instruments were made from cow femurs. The constellation of the Cow, or the seven cows, was the oldest extant ancient name for the Great Bear. And from above these stellar cows falls milk, strange milk which doesn’t wet hands (6).
- See also Introitus Apertus vs Waite’s Open Entrance. Chap 4 ;
- See also Fulcanelli & the External Influences;
- See also Thesaurus Hermeticum & the Pythagorean River;
- See also Archarion & the Opus Magnum Scheme , Ostanes, One Nature etc ,
- See also Canseliet, the Art of Music & Weight;
- See also Hans Memling’s Altarpiece with Boar and Jabuary 17 ,
The Aratus manuscript can be downloaded from National Library of Wales. The other ancient astronomical maps can be found at atlascoelestis.com , Star Trails pictures have been downloaded from NASA Picture of the Day.