Typology of Darkness and Light
The solar Ra (or perhaps originally a lunar consort — note the hare- or donkey-like ears) depicted as a cat, slaying ʿApep the serpent of darkness. Tomb of Inherkha, at Deir el-Medina (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2018
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“On every line of research we discover that the representation of nature was pre-anthropomorphic at first, as we see on going back far enough, and on every line of descent the zoomorphic passes ultimately into the human representation … Primitive men were all too abjectly helpless in [the] presence of these [nature] powers to think of them or to conceive them in their own similitude … Also they themselves were too little the cause of anything by the work of their own hands to enter into the sphere of causation mentally. They could only apprehend the nature-forces by their effects, and try to represent these by means of other powers that were present in nature, but which were also necessarily superior to the human and were not the human faculties indefinitely magnified.” (Gerald Massey)

In human perception as well as in astro-mythology, darkness and light are primordial. The earliest mythical representations of these two elements were zoomorphic; for example: the snake of darkness and the bird/cat of light, or the night jackal and the day hawk, or the wolf of darkness and the raven of light, etc. Alternatively we might find these two elements combined in e.g. the black-and-white ostrich or sacred ibis, or more symbolically in e.g. the double-headed bird (i.e. this symbol possibly originated in the alternating display of darkness and light perceived in the skies above; later adopted in the solar mythos to represent the setting western sun and the eastern rising sun—compare the Ancient Egyptian Hor-akheti as “Horus of the Horizons”).

But this polar ‘twinning’ was extended to other dualities, double-phasing or complementary opposites that were perceived in the surrounding world and cosmos, especially (later) the dual lunar phases: waxing light and waning light. Often—over time—two or more lunar myths become conflated, or the one assimilated to the other.

The Soli-Lunar Ass

Cathar ass-watermarks
Cathar watermarks depicting a solar donkey – likely typologicaly adopted from the earlier lunar donkey as a ‘carrier’ of the solar light during the night hours

Undoubtedly there was at one time a lunar donkey/ass as the ‘carrier’ of light upon the orb of the moon.[E.g. see Part 2 of the first endnote.] In the later soli-lunar mythos, only the waning moon (or the sun at night or the solar force during the long haul of the winter months) is represented by the donkey/ass, and the waxing moon (or the sun during the day or the solar force during the summer months) is represented by e.g. the lion—as an extension of the solar light-force, since it became known that the sun renews the light upon the orb of the moon. Originally, however, the waning moon was believed to plunge into either the ‘waters’ (perceived to be) surrounding the earth, or those flowing through the netherworld, and finally into a subterranean, central ‘well of life’ by which it was thought to renew itself (i.e. a mythical continuation of the primacy of the ‘life-giving’ water element born of the earth, and before the sun was recognised as giver and renewer of light in the moon).

And just as the lunar Osiris is gored by the ‘tusk’ of the Set-‘boar’ (the black boar assigned as representative of darkness), so too the lion-light of the moon is beset by the forces of darkness and is depicted as injured by way of a ‘thorn’ stuck in its paw, whereupon it must be rescued so that the lunar light can be restored as the New Moon. Alternatively, the ropes of an imprisoned lion are chewed by a small mouse; or, an incarcerated, blinded Samson breaks free from his chains, whereupon his ‘sight’, ‘long hair’ and ‘strength’ (i.e. the lengthening or incremental expansion of the soli-lunar light-force) are restored[1]—much like the lunar Horus’ eye of light which is healed/restored after his brother Set gouges it out (i.e. the encroachment of the non-illuminated dark phasing of the moon, or during the eclipse of the moon).

And just as the Dark Moon phase is measured at about 3 days, so too at the opposite side of the lunar cycle the Full Moon phase (the lunar pinnacle of light, thus ‘Crown’) approximates to a duration of about 3 days [leading later to a payment of 3 golden coins for the return of the donkey: the waning moon which follows the waxing lion-light]. When the donkey returns or is returned by someone who earlier captured it, the lion then ‘sleeps’ or is said to be ‘guarding’ the donkey (which, as waning moon, eventually dips into the waters of the nether world and draws water from the primordial ‘well-of-life’).

Of course, these dual elements or astro-mythical ‘twins’ are later anthropomorphised and become the twin brothers or the brother & sister. In the Nordic version, the brother and sister pair/twins are Hjúki and Bil (compare Jack and Jill) sent to the well Byrgir to fetch a cask of water. Typologically speaking, the mythical twin elements are ‘adopted’ by the Moon god Máni, who took them from the earth, and they were then said to “follow” Máni in the heavens (a progressive garbling of the lunar myth as it loses form in the developing folklore).

Consider the following two versions in folklore:

“Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown [the full, round disk of the moon]
and Jill came tumbling after.”

“The Lion and the Unicorn[/donkey]
Were fighting for a farthing [a fourth = quarter of the lunar month = 7 days*],
The Lion beat the Unicorn[/donkey]
Up and down the garden!”

(*Darkness is put to flight during the waxing moon, and light is extinguished during the waning moon; the cyclical waxing and waning, back and forth across the sky = “up and down the garden“)

In a highly adapted religious re-write in the Life of Saint Gerasimos of Jordan, the donkey now draws water from the Jordan River, and 3 gold coins are the price paid for the return of the donkey which had been taken away by a merchant but later returned (as the typical lunar phasing must, in perpetuity). Of course, with the absence of the donkey (the end of the waning moon period), the soli-lunar lion must now be the carrier of water (restored lunar light) in the New Moon and waxing moon. In the religious hagiographic recasting, it is no longer the sun that restores the lunar-lion to health, but a Christian saint; and it is no longer the subterranean well-of-life that provides the waters of renewal, but instead the Jordan River. Which is also to say that typological adoption/adaption can be considered legitimate if/when framed and understood within the context of mythos.


[1] Regarding Samson and Delilah in relation to soli-lunar mythos, Gerald Massey in Lectures states:

Part 1: “When the young [lunar] hero as son of the sun-god, reborn of the new moon, has once more conquered in conflict with his eternal enemy, and he breaks out in triumph, free from the throttling folds of the dragon [the dark moon phase or the eclipse], of the sami [Egyptian ‘forces of darkness’]… as he ascends aloft he is seen bearing the dark orb of the old moon as a palpable proof of his power. He had burst through the barriers of the underworld, the gates of death and darkness; and so it would be fabled that he carried the barriers away with him, and bore them visibly on high to the summit of the lunar ascent. It is so represented when Samson not only breaks out of Gaza, but tears up the city gates, and carries them away by night with their posts, bolts, and bars, to the top of the hill, or mountain of the moon, as the lunar height was called!

The soli-lunar nature of the hero is shown by the number 30 (the thirty days to the month in the soli-lunar reckoning.) Samson has thirty companions. He smote thirty men at Ascalon, and spoiled them of thirty changes of raiment. The number 7 is also an all-important factor in the lunar mythos, with its twenty-eight days to the month. In the cuneiform Legend of the Descent of Ishtar the goddess descends and ascends through seven gates, each way in her passage to and from the netherworld, as female representative of the moon. So when Sut-Typhon, the dark one of the lunar twins, was beaten by Horus, he is described by Plutarch as fleeing from the battle during seven days on the back of an ass! [the ass being a lunar representative, the ‘carrier’ of light] In each case the number 7 signifies one quarter of a moon.

The number 7, answering to one lunar quarter, is prominent in the legend of Samson. In one phase he tells Delilah that if he is bound with seven new bowstrings his strength will depart, and he will become weak, and be as another man. But when these are applied to him they are snapped like a string of fire-singed tow! We may suppose this phase to represent the first seven days of the growing crescent moon; hence the seven new bowstrings, which are in keeping with the seven strings of the lunar harp. In the second phase the hero is bound with new ropes, which he freed himself from as if they had been thread. Fourteen days brings us to the moon at full, and to the culmination of Samson’s glory. Then he confesses to his charmer that if the seven locks of his head are shaven off his strength will assuredly depart.

Now, hair is an especial, primitive type of virility, potency, and power. In the Egyptian Ritual [AKA Book of the Dead] the Osirified as Horus, ascends the heaven with his long hair reaching down to his shoulders as a type of his growing glory. Moreover, Samson’s hair, the emblem of his strength, is in seven locks. These answer to the seven nights of the quarter in which the lunar splendour comes to the full, and the opposing powers of darkness, called the Philistines, are very literally ‘cleared out.’ When this period is past, and the hero is shorn of his hair, the Philistines are upon him once more. This time the drama is to come to an end. But not without an intimation of its being continued or repeated in the next new moon, for the narrative confesses conscientiously that Samson’s hair began to grow again after he was shaven. But for the present the powers of darkness prevail; and having shorn the hero of his glory during seven nights, and brought him low, they put out his sight and bind him with fetters of brass, eyeless in Gaza, pitiful and forlorn as ‘blind Orion hungering for the morn.’

The eye of the blinded Horus being put out by Sut [Set], who was at the head of the typhonian powers, called the sami, or conspirators, is identical in the Egyptian mythos with the putting out of Samson’s eyes in the Hebrew version. In the Osirian myth, however, it is the eye of Horus that is wounded; the eye that is swallowed by Sut; the eye that is restored at dawn of day, and this one-eyed form of the mythos survives in the account of Samson’s blindness when he prays for strength enough to avenge the loss of one of his two eyes, as we have it in the margin! The lunar light was the eye of the sun, but this becomes the two eyes of the hero when he is rendered according to the complete human likeness, which shows us how the mythos was rationalised as history.

It is Delilah who causes the ruin of Samson, just as Ishtar, called Goddess fifteen, as the moon at full, is the ruin of her lovers, in the legend of Ishtar and Izdubar, where she is charged with being an enchantress, a poisoner, a destroyer of male potency. Izdubar, the sun-god, reproaches her with witchcraft, her murderous lust, her merciless cruelty, and declines to become her lover himself!

According to the myth the luni-solar male divinity was represented in the wane of the light as suffering from the evil influence of the female moon. It is very evident that the myths were made by men; as in case of a fall or catastrophe it was always she who did it. She tempted the poor man, or overcame the god. It was she who had shorn him of his glory; she who had given him poison to drink, and betrayed him to the powers of darkness; she who is the cause of his impotential mood, his waning, languishing, and drooping down. And the true meaning of Delilah‘s name, I take it, expresses the weakened, worn-out, impotent condition of the lunar hero thus brought low—the name being derivable from a root [Hebrew dalal דָּלַל] signifying to totter, droop, and hang inertly down—Delilah being the personified cause of this emasculated condition of the reduced and wretched, bound and blinded lunar god, the mighty hero in his fallen state.

The Danes have a lunar Delilah or lady of the moon, who is described as being very beautiful when seen in front, but she is hollow behind: she plays upon a harp of seven strings, and with this she lures young men to her on purpose to destroy them. The Hebrews have a Talmudic tradition that Samson was lame in both his feet. And this was the status or condition of the child-Horus, who was said to be maimed and halt in his lower members; the cripple deity, as he is called by Plutarch. Other scattered fragments of the true myth are to be found; for instance, in the lunar triad of the mother and the twin brothers, one of them accompanies the female moon during the first half of the total lunation, the other during the latter half; and this appears to be reflected by the Hebrew mythos when Samson’s wife is ‘given to his companion whom he had used as a friend.’

Again, the jackal was an Egyptian type of the dark one that devoured by night, and of Sut, the thief of light in the moon, he who swallowed the Eye of Horus. Jackal and fox are co-types, and they have one name, that of Shugal, the howler, in Hebrew. This enables us to understand the story of the 300 foxes or jackals in the Jewish form of the myth. Samson being the representative of the sun-god who drives the darkness out of or away from the lunar orb, and does all the damage he can to the typhonian powers, or Philistines, the story-teller multiplies the jackal to enhance the triumph of his hero; and instead of the struggle between Horus and the jackal-headed Sut-Anup, we have the more difficult feat of catching 300 jackals and setting fire to their tails, so that they might consume the crops of the Philistines, or, in other words, burn out the darkness from the orb of the moon.”

Part 2: “The ass was another typhonian type of the moon. In an Egyptian representation, it is by the aid of the ass-headed god Aai [iāy, also āy,ʿaā,ʿaāw] that the solar divinity ascends from the underworld where the dark powers have their time of triumph over him by night. The ass is portrayed in the act of hauling up the sun-god with a rope from the region below. That is one mode of expressing the fact that the moon here represented by the ass was the helper of the sun by night, in his battle against the powers of darkness—gave him a lift up, or, it may be, a ride.

Again, in the Persian form of the lunar myth, it is the ass that stands on three legs in the midst of the waters, who is the assistant of Sothis, the Dog-star, in keeping time. The three legs of the ass are a figure of the moon in its three phases of ten days each, like the three legs of the frog in the Chinese myth. Also, the head of the ass is an Egyptian hieroglyphic sign which has the numeral value of thirty, or a soli-lunar month. Thus we find the ass fighting on the side of the sun by night in the Egyptian mythos, and against the waters of the deluge, as a timekeeper in the Persian legend. In the Hebrew version the jaw-bone of the ass, a type of great strength, becomes the weapon of power with which Samson slays the Philistines, or fights the sun-god’s battle by night against his enemies that lurk in darkness.

The ass, as a lunar type, was also represented as the bearer of the solar messiah, just as the cow carries the sun between her horns as reproducer of his light in the moon. The moon at full was the genetrix under either type. The lessening, waning moon was her colt—the foal of an ass. The new moon, as the young lord of light, came riding in his triumph on the ass, as the new moon on the dark orb of the old mother-moon! Now, in the apocryphal Gospel of James, called the Protevangelium, the virgin Mary is described as riding on the ass when Joseph sees her laughing on one side of her face, and crying or being sad on the other! Which corresponds to the light and dark halves of the moon. She is lifted from the ass to give birth to the child of light in the cave. In the Greek myth, Hephaistos ascends from the underworld riding on the ass—the wine-god having made him drunk before leading him up to heaven. In the Hebrew version the Shiloh is to come, binding his ass to the vine, his eyes red with wine, his garments drenched in the blood of the grape, and he is as obviously drunk as Hephaistos. This imagery was set in the planisphere, ages before our era, as the fore-figure and prophecy of that which was to be fulfilled in the Christian history, according to the canonical gospels.”

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