6th Century Mosaic depicting the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish - Church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
6th Century mosaic depicting the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish – Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

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The “Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish” (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-15) may have originated as the Mystery of the Loaves and the Fish, and might be understood as follows…

At the beginning of the first century CE, the spring equinoctial sun ‘arose’ in the constellation of the Two Fish (Pisces). Besides tracing the actual observed shape of the constellation, this duo additionally represents the ‘doubling’ of the solar force at the vernal equinox (hence also the palm branch symbolising the solar ‘victory’ over the death, sparsity and inertia of winter), as well as the point of equipoise between winter and summer[1] (hence the “olive branch of peace” on the ‘mount’ of the horizon that was symbolically situated to the East—a seasonal complement to the time of dawn and sunrise in the daily course of the sun).[2]

“Virgo” by Jehoshaphat Aspin (Wikimedia Commons)

At the time of the autumn equinox, which was also the harvest time, the sun entered the constellation of Virgo—traditionally associated with and bearing a wheat-shaft in her left hand (bread being the product of harvested wheat). The left arm/hand with wheat is facing downwards to represent a solar decline and a diminishing of the solar and vegetative forces during the autumn season through winter; we see similar symbolism in the Mithraic tauroctony depictions where the torch-bearer Cautes’ torch is declining at the autumn equinox (or dusk in the daily solar ‘circuit’) in counterpoise to Cautopates’ torch which is held upright at the vernal equinox (or dawn).

To some extent, this particular portrayal of Virgo—with the wheat shaft lowered downwards in her left hand and the palm branch raised upwards in her right hand—mirrors the zodiac itself with the two equinoctial points/gates in counterpoise.

The

mithraa-tauroctonia-export
The Tauroctony of the Mithraic Mysteries. Note the torch-bearer Cautes’ lowered torch, and with his left leg crossing over the right (Autumn Equinox / Sunset / Evening Star). In the counterpoise position with raised torch, Cautopates’ right leg crosses over the left (Vernal Equinox / Sunrise / Morning Star). This “crossing over” symbolises the equinoctial/horizon crossing point between summer and winter (or day and night). It is possible, and perhaps likely, that this typology first originated in recognition of the summer solstice (torch upraised) and winter solstice (torch lowered); however, it is nonetheless clear in this, and normative Mithraic symbolism, that the torchbearers’ legs are either crossing (thus equinoctial) and/or the torchbearers are spatially situated in the astrological constellations relevant to the equinoxes at the time.
mithras14-ex
In the picture above, correspondences can be seen in the raven of dusk/evening/darkness (in the daily cycle) seated on the spica sheaf of wheat representing Autumn (in the seasonal cycle). On the opposite side, in counterpoise, is the cockerel of dawn (likewise, corresponding in the seasonal cycle, there is the egg-laying chicken or goose at the vernal equinox of Ostara or “Easter”).

This is possibly why we are given two birth/origin locations for Jesus who seemingly adopted the natal chart of the spring and autumn equinoctial suns:

  • Nazareth as Hebrew Natzrat = “(Place of the) Branch/Plant-Shoot”—mythically associated with the vernal equinox and spring growth, which, at the time, occurred in the Constellation of the Fish.
  • Bethlehem as Hebrew Beit-Lehem = “House of Bread”—mythically associated with the harvest and autumn equinox, which, at the time, occurred in the Constellation of Virgo.

At this stage it should be noted, that prior to the recognition and formal observation of the equinoxes, two earlier seasonal points were celebrated in the ‘birth’ of the winter solstice sun (Christmas has adopted some of the associated pagan elements) and the zenith of the summer solstice sun (perhaps also related to the pinnacle of the solar temple or temple steps), to which the lowered and upraised torches of Cautes and Cautopates respectively accord.

* * * *

John “the Forerunner” was reportedly conceived/born six months before the conception/birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26, 1:29). A solstitial analogue may be seen respectively in the summer solstice sun (which thereafter decreases in strength) and the winter solstice sun (which thereafter increases in strength) with a six-month stretch between the two. An equinoctial analogue to the “decreasing” John and the “increasing” Jesus (John 3:30) may also be seen in the observation of the “falling” autumn sun and the “ascending” spring sun respectively, likewise with six months separating the two. Insofar as the lunar reckoning/observation of time preceded the solar (likewise in the associated astronomical mythos), the aforementioned “falling” (or anthropos “thrown down”, compare James “cast down” from the pinnacle of the Temple) and “ascending” (or anthropos “raised up”, compare Jesus “resurrected”) may have been typologically prefigured in the waning moon and the waxing moon (separated by a three-day hiatus when the moon sets into the western horizon before reappearing and waxing in light after its occultation within the ‘mount’ of the earth—often symbolised by a cave or a journey into or through the underworld).

From the perspective of the Messianic Jewish Nazarenes and Orthodox or normative Christianity, their primary focus and doctrinal tenets were obviously not centered around the pagan observation of the seasons—unless simply as a cosmological portent or perhaps for their allegorical value (see also endnote 4). That said, Christianity does appear to have adopted and in certain instances co-opted some of the astro-mythical typology. As we read in the Nazarene Acts of the Apostles (Recognitions 4:35):

For there is one true Prophet, whose words we apostles preach; for He [Christ] is the accepted year of God, having us apostles as His twelve months.

* * * *

The numerical value of 7 pertaining to the loaves of bread originates in a much earlier typological layer that anteceded even the solar mythos and arguably prefigures the seven-lamp Menorah and its typological precursor, the candelabrum tree from the Jiroft Culture. These seven can be seen in the seven precessional pole-stars on the summit of the astronomical “Mount of Heaven” that in e.g. Egypt was the mount of Hetep (contentment, rest, plenty, an offering) or Hept (seven): hence the celestial heptanomis that comprised seven nomes and was governed by seven precessional pole-stars in the north.

Circumpolar constellations (north)

Also referred to as the “Field of Plenty” (Ancient Egyptian sekht ḥetep), this summit was considered a paradise of divine plenitude (hence ḥetep), and it is likely from this astro-mythical origin that the seven loaves were derived (at least from a typological standpoint). This is also mythically analogous to the Mandaean Mount Parwan “where the fruit and crops are large” and where there is “a Tree which nourishes all nurselings” (the Mandaean “white” mountain likely originated in the Milky Way with its summit in the northern Polaris: the direction the Mandaeans traditionally face during prayer and sleep). The seven presiding pole-stars in the circuit of axial precession (the “Great Year” = approx. 25,800 solar years) precede and in some typological aspects prefigure e.g. the Seven Rishis / Seven Abgallu / Seven Kabiri / Seven Amesha Spenta / Seven Aeonic Lords or Archons, as well as the seven-lamp Menorah, many of which were later calibrated to and subsumed within the solar mythos. Every culture will, of course, have their own version and religious reorientation—the present writer has given an example from Egypt.

Mythos itself was also in development: from the “Lesser” elemental, seasonal and astronomical Mysteries, to the “Greater” eschatological, metaphysical and gnostic Mysteries (and the associated divine “Presences/Names/Words/Seals”). As can be seen in the development of the Egyptian Mysteries, there was a legitimate and traditional adoption and adaptation of the mythical typologies and astronomical topographies.

The Miracle of the Five/Seven Loaves which were reported to have sustained the followers of Jesus in the wilderness is likely onto-cosmologically akin to e.g. the Pythagorean Mystery of the Five/Seven Vowels, the Egyptian Gnostic Mystery of the Five/Seven Seals, the Manichean Gnostic “Five Sons of the Primal Man”, the “Five Theophanies” of the Shiʿite Gnostic Mokhammisa (Pentadists), and the Hindu “Seven Sons of Sat Purush” (with cosmological analogues in e.g. the Quranic “Seven Heavens” and the Sufi “Five Divine Presences”).

The followers of Jesus were reportedly healed, awakened or granted true Life in “the Name” of Jesus (compare the Jewish ha Shem). Consider the following from the Nag Hammadi gnostic text, the Trimorphic Protennoia:

I [the Word – ineffable, unpolluted, immeasurable, inconceivable] delivered him to the baptizers, and they baptized him … and they immersed him in the spring of the Water of Life … And he received the Five Seals from the Light of the Mother, Protennoia, and it was granted him to partake of the mystery of knowledge, and he became a Light in Light … These are the glories that are higher than every glory, that is, the Five Seals, complete by virtue of Intellect. He who possesses the Five Seals of these particular names has stripped off the garments of ignorance and put on a shining Light. And nothing will appear to him that belongs to the Powers of the Archons … And I proclaimed to them the ineffable Five Seals in order that I might abide in them and they also might abide in me.[3]

It is likely in this way—via the foundational mythologem of the “field of (celestial) plenitude” (where the Egyptian ḥetepu also denotes divine “offerings”)—that the wilderness-dwelling followers of Jesus were sustained on Five ‘Loaves’ (with perhaps the ‘fish’ representing the Righteous Teacher, Moreh ha-Tsedeq—see note 4). It is also perhaps in this way that we can now approach the following verse:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not Live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.”(Matthew 4:4)

Messianic Seal of the Nazarenes (Notzrim). Image Source: jacksonsnyder.com
Messianic Seal of the Nazarenes (Notsrim). The base of the Menorah and the tail of the Fish intersect to form the Star of David. Image Source: jacksonsnyder.com

In conclusion, it appears that the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish—also known as “the feeding of the 5,000″—is an amalgam or conflation of:

  • the 5,000 wilderness-dwelling Notsrim who had separated themselves from Jerusalem and the Land of Judah (in order to escape the servitude of Herodian rule and Roman occupation);
  • Jewish symbolism evident in the Nazarene “Messianic Seal” (depicting the 7-Lamp Menorah and Righteous ‘Fish’[4]—see image on right);
  • the gnostic mystery of the “Five Seals” (or Five Intonations)—considered as a type of divine sustenance—that was dispensed at the time that the Nazarene communities were dwelling in the Jordan and trans-Jordan wilderness;
  • a typological adoption-reorientation of the equinoctial solar mythos—the constellations of the Wheat-Bearing Maiden (spicifera Virgo Cereris) and the Two Fish: the birth-houses of the equinoctial sun at autumn and spring respectively.

Endnotes:

[1] According to Gerald Massey, “The double house of the astrologers is identical with the [Ancient Egyptian] great hall of Mati, the place where the balance was always set up in whichever sign the equinox occurred for the time being. The place of the equinox was the hall of Mati, or rather the double equinoxes formed the double house of Mati.” (Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907, p.732)
[2] Which is probably why, in the Quranic version of the Nativity, the pregnant Mother Mary gives birth to Jesus under a palm tree (Quran 19:23-25) after she “withdrew from her family to a place in the East” (Quran 19:16). In an earlier myth, the pregnant Isis in labour likewise retreats to the papyrus reed-bed where she gives birth to her son Horus. Elsewhere, Horus is called “child of the Olive Tree” in reference to the sun’s ‘birthing’ or rising from the ‘tree’ of dawn upon the ‘mount’ of the horizon to the east. In Egyptian mythos, the place of Beqū (Olives) was the horizon ‘Mount (akhet) of Olives’ to the East. Note also that the Egyptian bekh refers to light or illumination, bākā is sunrise, bākh is ‘light’ or ‘bright’ (also beq), and Bekh or Bekhett is the eastern horizon as birthing place/mount of the sun (Bākhū was the Land of the Sunrise; Bāqt was the mythical Olive Tree in Heliopolis).
[3] Trimorphic Protennoia (Translated in: James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990).
[4] According to the late G.R.S. Mead, “It has recently been shown by that acute scholar J. Scheftclowitz from hitherto neglected Rabbinical documents that ‘fish’ was quite a common symbol for the righteous man of Israel, who lived all his life in the waters of the Torah or Sacred Law. The evidence goes back as early as the times of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, the teacher of Paul, who was therefore a contemporary of John and Jesus. Thus we read in the Midrash Tanḥuma to Deut. 5:32: ‘As a fish delights in water, even so a master of the scriptures dives into the streams of balm’—the sweet smelling waters of the Law … Though they were not ‘fishers of men,’ they were fish of Yahweh swimming in the holy stream, the life-giving waters of the Law. It was thus very natural for John, remembering the striking passage in Ezekiel (47:12) about the fish who repented, to contrast with them the unrepentant as a ‘generation of vipers,’ (cp. the fish-scorpion contrast in Mt. 7:10). Nor could John have been ignorant of the prophecy in Jeremiah (16:16) concerning the gathering together of dispersed Israel: “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them,” and have given it a spiritual significance. But of an even more arresting nature is the following from Bereshith Rabba (ch. 97): ‘As the Israelites are innumerable, even so are the fishes; as the Israelites will never die out on the earth, the fishes will never die out in their element. Only the Son of Man named ‘Fish’ could lead Israel into the Land of Promise,—namely Joshua ben Nun ( = Fish).’ The Greek transliteration of Joshua in the LXX. version is invariably Jesus.” (Translated in: Gnostic John the Baptizer: Selections from the Mandaean John-Book, London: Watkins, 1924, pp. 16-21)

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