THE MAJOR ARCANA of the Tarot deck include the 17th Arcanum, called “The Star”, which portrays a naked woman pouring water from two jugs, with a 16-point star shining in the center of the heavens and an observing ibis perched on the crown of a tree. This Arcanum symbolizes the wisdom and vision of a new future. It announces the dawn, and is associated with Aquarius, the water bearer.
The woman may symbolise the Greek goddess Themis, daughter of Uranus (the sky) and Gaia. Themis, referred to as Ma’at in ancient Egypt, represents justice, from which the word magistrate is derived. Thus, she is usually portrayed blindfolded (as a sign of impartiality), holding a sword in one hand (symbolizing the ability to discriminate) and a scale in the other hand (signifying equilibrium). Nevertheless, Themis does not symbolize manmade justice, which is oftentimes arbitrary, but rather justice that comes from the natural order, cosmic equilibrium and the understanding of the laws of nature.
The dawn that the “Star” announces was preceded by an awakening, which occurred at the end of the 16th major Arcanum, “The Tower”. The Tower represents an awakening from the illusion of materialism, the apocalypse, which is a word of Greek origin that means precisely “to uncover, to realize, or to reveal”. The materialism from which we awaken is symbolized in the previous card, the 15th, “The Devil”. This was an internal awakening, but at the same time it was a collective awakening.
The 17th Arcanum of the Tarot (The Star) promises us a harmonious future, as long as the light prevails in the hearts of all. The 16th Arcanum (The Tower) brings us the divine message, so that we might awaken from the dream of materialism and remove the veil that hides our inner light. It prophesies an awakening that will be triggered by the Sun. This could take the form of a solar eruption that will make us realize that we have based our entire civilization and way of life on a technological illusion. Technological devices are creations of the mind and have made us forget that, in actuality, we are Spirit.
An ibis appears on the 17th Arcanum (The Star) of the Tarot. The ibis is the symbol of Thoth, the scribe of the gods, who, in Greek tradition, is referred to as Hermes and in Roman tradition as Mercury. The ibis is standing on top of the Axis Mundi, or center of the world, which in this case is depicted in the form of a tree. However, in many other instances it is represented by a mountain. Thoth contemplates the work completed since the awakening.
The ibis also symbolizes the Bennu, which the Greeks knew as the Phoenix, and which the ancient Egyptians associated with the rising sun, the city of Heliopolis (city of the sun in Greek) and the sun god Ra. In Greek mythology, the bird stands on top of Benben, the primordial mountain, whence it observes every new dawn. The mountain again symbolizes the Axis Mundi, the point of access to both the underworld and heaven.
According to different myths and legends, the Phoenix lived for five hundred years 1, before throwing itself into the funeral pyre and then resurrecting itself in all its splendor five hundred years later, at which point it would then go on to live for another five hundred years.
«Itzam-Yeh» The Celestial Bird
IN MAYAN CULTURE, the bird on top of the Axis Mundi is Itzam-Yeh, or the Celestial Bird, and the Axis Mundi is the Waka-Chan, the cosmic tree or cross tree. Itzam-Yeh is the totemic animal of Itzam Na, the supreme god and essence of the creative force of the cosmos 2. Thus, the bird is the heavenly manifestation of Itzam Na.
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THE TOLTECS AND the Aztecs also portrayed the Cosmic Tree with a quetzal, or bird, perched in the crown. On the left is Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, with the prince of flowers Xochipilli on the right. They evoke the unifying movement of the descent to the underworld (Quetzalcoatl) and the ascent to heaven (Xochipilli). Thus, the Cosmic Tree is the Axis Mundi, which links the three worlds. Furthermore, it symbolizes the Milky Way and the human spine with its two lateral energy channels, one through which energy ascends and the other through which it descends. There is a similar image on the second page of the Codex Selden, which is of Mixtec origin.
The Departure of Quetzalcoatl
IN THE NAHUATL language, Quetzalcoatl is the term given to the high priest of Toltec religion, whose lineage has been re-established through the manifestation of different prophets throughout history. The last of these was Topiltzin, the king of Tula. He died by throwing himself onto his own funeral pyre near the coast of Coatzacoalcos, in the present-day state of Veracruz. It is said that:
When he burned, his heart rose up from the ashes, and all the beautiful birds that circled the skies came to see him. His heart ascended, as shiny as jade, and in this way he entered heaven. And the elders say that he became the morning star (Annals of Cuauhtitlan).
According to the chronicler Diego de Landa, this event marked the last day of the month of Xul, which fell on November 12, 999. There is an obvious parallel between Quetzalcoatl’s self-incineration and the myth of the Phoenix. In addition, legend has it that he returned from the underworld four years later to announce that one day he would return. This he did, as follows:
Be joyful! A new day is drawing near, the magnificent day of radiant beauty, when to my place I must return. Then you will see me! On that day you will understand the divine reasons; I will grow my crop and reap what I have sown. And then, the malevolent animal will vanish forever and you will be able to walk in peace 3
Upon Quetzalcoatl’s new reincarnation, or Topiltzin’s birth, a new civilizational cycle began that lasted ten “New Fires”, the equivalent of 520 years (based on a duration of 52 days per “New Fire”). Every 52 years the Tzolk’in (Maya) and Tonalpohualli (Aztec) calendars of 260 days synchronize with the year. Thus, every 52 solar years, both calendars restart when the Sun is positioned at the same point of the ecliptic, which is on the same day of the year. During the five centuries after the departure of Quetzalcoatl, it was day. However, this day was to be followed by a night of the same duration. This cycle of five centuries is clearly parallel to the Myth of the Phoenix.
The arrival of his twin brother
EXACTLY 10 New Fires – or 520 solar years – after Quetzalcoatl’s departure in the year 999, Hernán Cortés landed on the coasts of Yucatán. Over the course of that year, he would conquer the land that is now present-day Mexico. The conquest was finalized in February of 1519. The night started with the arrival of Quetzalcoatl’s twin brother.
Some say that the Aztecs saw the return of Quetzalcoatl in Hernán Cortés. Nonetheless, surely it was not long before they realized that he was not Quetzalcoatl, but rather Xólotl, Quetzalcoatl’s twin brother. Xólotl was the god of fire and symbolized the evening star, the same star that protects the Sun as it travels through the underworld at night. In Mesoamerican mythology, it was he who imparted knowledge to man. In the Bible, he is represented as Lucifer, the serpent that tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. According to legend, Quetzalcoatl is associated with the Morning Star, the star he turned into when he died. One announced the break of day: Quetzalcoatl (as the divine expression), Topiltzin (as his human reincarnation), or the Morning Star (as the celestial manifestation). The other announced the fall of night: Xólotl (as the divine expression), Hernán Cortés (as his human reincarnation), or the Evening Star (as the celestial manifestation).
The Path of Wiracocha
IN INCAN CULTURE, this 500-year cycle was called pachakuti, the literal meaning of which in Quechua is: space-time (pacha) reversed or inverted (cuti). Thus, pachacuti makes reference to the cosmic inversion of space-time, which takes place once every five centuries. It is when the civilizational day gives way to night, or vice versa.
Pizarro’s arrival in Incan territory, some seven years after Hernán Cortés’ arrival in Mexico, marked the end of an era that had begun with the first of the twelve Incan monarchs, Manco Cápac. His name literally means “the just (Cápac) ruler (Manco)”. Like the Aztecs, the Incas knew that the end of an era had arrived and that the night was beginning. Not by coincidence, Pizarro and his mercenaries landed on the very stretch of coast where, centuries before, the prophet of that land, Wiracocha, had disappeared as he walked over those waters. Wira means foam and cocha means lake or sea. Wiracocha appeared over the waters of Lake Titicaca and moved at a 45 degree angle, crossing Cusco and Cajamarca, and then disappeared over the Tumbes Sea in the Pacific Ocean.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when Pizarro followed the same path in the opposite direction, in search of Cuzco’s gold, the Incas knew that their long, five-hundred-year night was beginning. This enabled Pizarro to conquer the entire empire with 168 soldiers and 37 horses. Like the Aztecs’ Xólotl, the evening star that appears when the sun sets, and accompanies it into the underworld, Pizarro descended the Path of Wiracocha to inform the Incas that, as night was falling on America, the sun was rising in Europe after the long medieval night.
IT IS OBVIOUS that different civilizations, both Andean and Mesoamerican, were fully aware of the cycles that govern history, such as the approximately 500-year cycle of the rise and decadence of civilizations. As proven through the legend of the Phoenix, the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and other cultures held this knowledge, as well.
These periods are all related to Venus’ transit. In astrology, “transit” refers to the passing of the two interior planets (Mercury and Venus) across the solar disk. The transit of Venus occurs in pairs, with eight years separating the two transits in a given pair. One pair is separated from the next by a span of 105.5 to 121.5 years 5. During the most recent transit, the descending node occurred on June 8, 2004 and the ascending node occurred on June 6, 2012. One thousand and forty (1040) years before, in the year 972, Topiltzin would have had five years left before he was named king of Tula.
Every 1040 years, the solar calendar and the Tonalpowalli (a cycle of 260 days) synchronize, as do the Moon’s full cycle and the solar year. Moreover, this is equal to half of the synchronization period between Venus’ full cycle and the solar year, which equals 2080 years. The 1040-year cycle was so important to the Anahuac cultures that the Toltecs designated this interval as their millennium, divided into 520 diurnal and 520 nocturnal years.
Sixteen days before June 6, 2012, another highly important astronomical phenomenon took place: a Solar Saros 128 annular eclipse 12. The first eclipse in the series occurred on August 29, 984 A.D., when Topiltzin was the king of Tula. Consequently, there is an entire set of astronomical events that link us to the period when people first began to recognize that Quetzalcoatl had been resurrected.
The Return of Quetzalcoatl
BEFORE HIS departure, Quetzalcoatl announced:
Be joyful! A new day is drawing near, the magnificent day of radiant beauty, when to my place I must return. Then you will see me! On that day you will understand the divine reasons; I will grow my crop and reap what I have sown. And then, the malevolent animal will vanish forever and you will be able to walk in peace 6
In the tarot, that malevolent animal is represented in the 15th Arcanum (The Devil). In Revelation, it is the Beast. Its number is 666, or DCLXVI in Roman numerals [i.e., D(500) + C(100) + L(50) + X(10) + V(5) + I(1)]. This number consists of all of the Roman numerals except the M, which equals 1000. It would seem that 666 alludes to the act of counting, of quantifying everything, of assigning a value to both the material and the immaterial, including life itself. By definition, this is what the market does.
It will come as no surprise, then, that there are people in Mesoamerica who are awaiting Quetzalcoatl’s return. Some were predicting that his return was going to take place on June 6th, the date when Venus transited across the solar sphere.
The White Heron
ON JUNE 1st, 2012, a white heron appeared in the pond located in the central plaza of Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology. The appearance of the white heron tended to occur between the annular eclipse on May 20th – a time when, as tradition has it, the cosmic energy of the feathered serpent would began to descend – and June 6th, when it would finish its descent. The May 20th eclipse was linked to the beginning of the descent because it occurred precisely at the time when the sun was in conjunction with the Pleiades. In Mayan mythology, the Pleiades are located at the zero degree point of their ecliptic and were called the rattlesnake. Thus, the Pleiades symbolize the rattlesnake’s tail. Similarly, this point is located at 0º Aries in Western astrology. Taking this into account, Venus’ transit on June 6th could be linked to the culmination of the return of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.
A white heron showing up for the first time ever in the middle of the Mexican Museum of Anthropology could be considered relatively insignificant if it were not for two factors:
The Return of the Inkarri
IN THE ANDES there is a myth called the Inkarri, a word derived from the contraction of the term Inka Rey. This myth relates that when Pizarro captured the last Inca (Atawallpa) in Cajamarca as he descended the Path of Wiracocha toward Cuzco, he beheaded him and sent his head to Spain as proof of his death. He cut his body into four parts and buried them in the four suyus, or regions, of the Incan State, which corresponded to the four cardinal directions. At this point, the myth becomes prophecy, and explains that his four extremities are growing and seeking to be reunited. When his head returns from the place it was taken and rejoins the four extremities, the spirit of Inkarri will again be with us to rebuild the Tawantinsuyu (four regions of the Sun), the ancient Incan State.
In this allegory, each member being buried in a different cardinal direction symbolizes the different peoples of the land being joined in that direction, while their growth symbolizes the increasing number of us who will seek and desire that unison. This is a reunion that takes place in an established location. The Q’ero, descendants of the Inca, call it Mastay. The Mastay prophecy tells of the “reintegration of the people from the four directions”, which will initiate a new era of peace and harmony which they call Taripay Pacha (the time when we find ourselves again).
The Q’ero prophecies tell us that the first Inka Mallku (Wise Inca) will emerge and will be recognized during the pilgrimage of the Lord of Qoylluriti. The first wise man will begin to reunite with the people until he has reached the number twelve, half of whom will be men and the other half women 7. At this point, the prophecy seems to merge with many others that predict the future flowering of Tawantinsuyu and how that region will inspire the entire world. This is exemplified in the prophecy that St. Rose of Lima proclaimed four centuries ago.
Place, Date and Method
ONE PROPHECY GIVES us the potential location: the pilgrimage of the Lord of Qoylluriti. This pilgrimage takes place just before Corpus Christi, a holiday that is observed 60 days after Holy Week. However, it does not mention the year. On the other hand, the prophecy of Quetzalcoatl’s return is linked to a possible date – June 6, 2012, during Venus’ transit in front of the Sun – but does not mention the location. Nevertheless, in 2012 the final day of the Lord of Qoylluriti pilgrimage fell precisely on June 6.
Having mentioned that, however anecdotal it may be, it is important for us to keep in mind that we must not allow anyone, whether an individual or group, to do our work for us. We have just entered the Age of Aquarius, the zodiac sign that is opposite to Leo. If this were the Age of Leo, we would be able to wait for that messianic and charismatic leader who would guide and help us all. Aquarius, however, instructs us to let our spirits rule. It instructs us to build organized systems around the concept of networking, solidarity and consciousness, both at the planetary and universal levels. We must make decisions naturally, fluidly and based on consensuses among those involved.
The 17th Arcanum, The Star, which is the Arcanum discussed at the beginning of this article, portrays a star that appears to be the Greek goddess Themis. In ancient Greece, she presided over community matters, assemblies 8, in order to ensure that decisions were reached through consensus. Thus, Themis has not returned to govern, but rather to teach us to live in harmony with the environment and ourselves, so that the energy of life may once again wet the bed of a river that has either dried up or been contaminated by humans.
Translated from Spanish by Allan Boteler.