An untrampled Scorpion bothers no one

Throughout the history of mankind we looked to the skies and stars for signs of the favour of the gods. We made twelve constellations each marking a certain time and we attributed certain characteristics to it based on our earthly experience during the different constellations. According to astrologers each constellation/zodiac sign rules for around 2,160 years and if one studies different religions and empires that rose or fell during certain zodiac sign ages, the influence of the particular sign becomes quite evident. The monuments/temples/etc. that mostly survived and are thus most noticeable today are those built during the ages of the Lion, the Bull and the Ram. Wars, extinction of tribes, changes in climate all played their part in destroying evidence of many other older moments in times when other ages were ruling.

One of these is the age of Scorpio. According to the calculation of ages the last Age of Scorpio was around 16,759 to 14,773 BCE. There hasn’t been that much discovered by archaeologist in terms of civilizations during this age yet, but judging from finds during more recent times Scorpio appears to be the only sign that has three symbols linked to it: the snake, the bird and the scorpion. It could be that the bird and snake were later replaced with other animals (eg. as a dog, lion, hawk, rabbit), because when one views the scene of Mithra slaying the bull, “he” is aided by a dog, a snake and a scorpion. Battles between different gods were often used in art and this particular depiction could indicate that Mithraism was created during the age of Scorpio and was now fighting for survival with the religion of the Sumerians, with god Marduk represented by a bull. No one knows exactly how old Mithraism is, but is widely recognized as the world’s oldest monotheistic religion and was practiced by Persians for millenia. In the popular scene of Mithra slaying the bull the scorpion is depicted seizing the genitals of the bull. The significance of this is that each of the zodiacal signs represents a body part and the scorpion represents the genitals making it a symbol for fertility. Astrological thought played a very important part in this religion and the use of the scorpion in Mithraic reliefs proves this. Because of all the connections of scorpions with fertility it is speculated that Mithra was in fact a goddess and that would make the Scorpio connection more appropriate since Scorpio was feminine. Even in Ancient Egypt the Goddess Serket heralded the coming sandstorms and hordes of scorpions as her constellation rose in the east. Her symbol was also the scorpion, the snake and the bird. The Scorpion at this time was regarded as benevolent and protective.

Besides the ages of each constellation, each star sign also spends about 180 years (called an era) in each age and its influence becomes visible during those times. A great example of this was the time Scorpio spent in the Age of Gemini 6480 to 4320 BC.

In 2000 flash floods along the Halil River swept the topsoil off thousands of previously unknown tombs, in Iran. This set in motion a most exciting excavation process in Jiroft that is still ongoing. The discovery of this city, established 5,000BC, pushed Iran to the no. 1 spot in the world as the country with the oldest known civilization, moving the Sumerians down to second spot. It is thought that there are remains of 11 civilizations that inhabited the vast space during different periods. One of the most exiting finds were tens of thousands of vases, cups, boxes and goblets made from chlorite. The Jiroft artisans crafted pieces with strange and enigmatic iconography. One of the fascinating pieces of art is the scorpion man pictured here.

A civilization that thrived at a similar time as those of Jiroft is in Tepe Gawra. The name is Kurdish meaning "Great Mound" and it is an ancient Mesopotamian settlement located in the Mosul region of northwest Iraq, hat was occupied between 5000 and 1500 BC. There many items, especially seals, were found with scorpions on them.

Another exciting find in Iran is a beautifully formed mythological creature, made of tan frit, has a woman’s head, the raised wings of an eagle, the forelegs of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. The scorpion’s tail bends around and attaches to the top of her crown forming a handle. She wears a double strand, bead necklace. This was probably a protective genie, perhaps an Assyrian representation of Scorpion People. In Mesopotamian mythology, the Scorpion People were powerful servants of the sun god Utu (Shamash). They had a human head, arms and torso but were bird-like below the waist (sometimes with human legs,and sometimes bird) and a scorpion’s tail. The people of Mesopotamia invoked the Scorpion People as figures of powerful protection against evil and the forces of chaos. In The Epic of Gilgamesh written in the 18th Century BC the Scorpion couple, Scorpion Man and Scorpion Woman, guard the great Gate of the Mountain where the sun rises and are described as `terrifying’. The scorpion men opened the doors for Shamash as he traveled out each day, and closed the doors after him when he returned to the underworld at night. The scorpion men must have had the ability to see far beyond the horizon as they could also warn travelers of coming dangers. According to myths written in the Akkadian language the Aqrabuamelu had heads that could touch the sky. They could terrorize people and their glance resulted in death. The existence of these fascinating beings dates back to the beginning of time. Myths and legends tell the Aqrabuamelu were first created by the Tiamat in order to wage war against the younger gods for the betrayal of her mate Apsu. Apsu was the name for the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above. In Ancient Mesopotamia the scorpion was also the symbol of the goddess of fertility, Ishtar, who presided over the sacred marriage.

Around the time the era of Scorpio arrived in the Age of Taurus 4320 to 2160 BC, a king ruled in Egypt that used the symbol of the Scorpio as his royal inscription. Discovered in 1995 by J.C Darnell and D Darnell at Gebel Tjauti (south-east of Abydos) the “Scorpion Tableau” depicts a victory procession lead by King Scorpion (whose name is written as a hawk above a scorpion) suggesting that Scorpion defeated the ruler of Naqada and unified Upper Egypt as a prelude to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Narmer. What we have written down on this ancient tableau are unprecedented details about the mystery king, whose achievements were considered stuff of mythology and legend, but are now proven to have been critical in the founding of the ancient Egyptian Civilization. Halfway between history and legend is the figure of a pharaoh that lived on Earth before the unification of Ancient Egypt, and whose symbol was a scorpion under the protection of a falcon (Horus, and symbol of royalty as protected by the god). This monarch, the oldest known to date, has been popularly called the Scorpion King. It is estimated that this ancient ruler must have lived between 3,200 and 3,300 BC, when upper and lower Egypt were unified, and when the era of Scorpio started during the Age of Taurus. What makes the discovery even more fascinating is the fact that until recently it was thought that the first kings, who were represented as half men and half animals, were mere mythological figures, but the discovery of Horus-Scorpio has confirmed that they were people of flesh and blood. Scorpion’s tomb is known by archaeologists for its possible evidence of ancient wine consumption. Furthermore, archaeologists believe now the conquests of the Scorpion King started the Egyptian hieroglyphic system by starting a need to keep records in writing.

At this time a Pre-Harappan people occupied Rehman Dheri, situated near Dera Ismail Khan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. This is one of the oldest urbanised centres found to date in South Asia. Dated about 3300 BC seals with the scorpion on was also found at the site.

Once we move into the Age of Aries, 2160BC to 0BC, the image of the Scorpion changes from benevolent to malevolent. It was also during the age of Aries that the new Persian religion, Zoroastriasm, started and in this religion scorpions represent evil and all things dark. Combining the new attributes given to Scorpio and the war-loving Aries, the Second Assyrian Empire (900 to 720 BC) that was established during this time, employed especially brutal expressions of torture to convince the cities that they were besieging to surrender. They became the most hated people in antiquity. Hebrew prophets began railing against the evilness they saw and in the process they began to lay the foundations of a new more universal Hebrew religion. It is interesting to note that just as the era of Scorpio in Aries ended, the ruling king Sanherib’s consort took the scorpion as her royal mark, possibly because it was the symbol of the fertility goddess Ishtar.

In Persia, however, the Scorpion was used in royal art for centuries thereafter. Numerous Sasanian coins have been found as far away as China and other material remains include small objects such as the animal seals. These seals date from about the fifth century C.E. and contain a rabbit, a bird, a scorpion and a stag carved in various kinds of stone.

The next time Scorpio made its appearance was in the Age of Pisces, 1260 to 1440AD. This era brought death to Medieval European culture. Several deadly epidemics raged, the biggest being the Black Death that ravaged Europe for over 50 years and killed over one fourth of the population. The Church became greedy and turned towards making money, selling mainly funerary and mortuary services and relics and the papacy split into three separate Popes reigning at the same time over Plutonian power issues. The Spanish Inquisition begins to use torture to seek confessions. It is also the time of the Longest war in history, the Hundred Years War. Called the "Age of Dislocations and Disasters", the lives of most people were harsh and depressing during this Era. Heavy taxation during this period led to several peasant revolts, of which many were in wool producing areas. This is also the period of a Mini Ice Age. Giotto begins a trend in art that would lead to a more humanistic focus in the Renaissance. Roger Bacon established the scientific method of direct observation rather than the old reliance on Papal authority when seeking to know nature.

It is also during this era that the Aztec Empire was at its height of power. Like the Assyrians, the Aztecs also believed in scorpion men guarding a gate. According to Aztec legend such beings were called Tzitzimime, spirits of defeated gods cast out of the sky after they destroyed the sacred grove of fruit trees. A pair of blue anthropomorphic creatures, one with arms and tail of a scorpion, decorate the pillars in the "Star-Chamber" at the Cacaxtla archeological site southeast of Mexico City.

The physical scorpion has always played a dual role for many civilizations through time. It was and is either seen as good or as evil. Many civilizations regarded the scorpion as either as a symbol of a goddess of protection or demons from hell. Based on the particular belief system there are either remedies, charms & spells to keep scorpions away and to treat the poisonous sting of the scorpion; or the scorpion symbol is used as tattoos, embroidered on clothing or worn as talismans to invoke the protection of the scorpion onto the bearer. In other cases societies view the scorpion as both good and evil depending on the situation. Dervishes from all over the world use stories of scorpions to teach about the nature of all things. One such story is of a sage who was once sitting at a river bank when he was stung by a scorpion. Asked why he did not kill the poisonous insect, he replied: “It is the nature of the scorpion to bite, it is my nature not to do any evil and not to kill.” It goes without saying that the sage remained unhurt.

The scorpion symbol is also widely used in carpet designs, mostly noticeable in tribal weavings, such as rugs woven by the Berbers of Morocco and kilims from various regions. The symbols used in the weaving of carpets always carry with it a special prayer that the buyer will enjoy protection, good luck and blessings in their home, and thus including the scorpion symbol embodies the hope that no scorpion will enter the space where the carpet is placed. The Karabagh Horadiz (Goradis) rugs from Azerbaijan probably has the most graphic and clear design of the scorpion symbol in Persian carpets and definitely one of our favourites.