Positive Progress Through The Benevolent Use Of Knowledge

Thursday, April 21, 2011



The brightest of all the fixed stars is Sirius. Known to astronomers as Alpha Canis Major, it is the principal star of the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog). The ancient Egyptians called it Septit, the Hebrews knew it as Sihor, to the Greeks as Sothis and also as the "the Dog Star" that followed Orion the Hunter. Sirius has a magnitude of -1.42, which makes it nine times more brilliant than a standard first magnitude star. It can even been seen in daylight with a telescope having an aperture of 12 mm.

Plate 1: The star Sirius A in Canis Major

Its colour is a brilliant white with a tinge of blue and purple. Sometimes when atmospheric conditions are right, Sirius will scintillate with all the colours of the rainbow when seen low on the horizon. Classified as a type 'A1' star, Sirius is 23 times as bright as our sun and has almost twice its diameter. Being only 8.7 light-years away, Sirius is the fifth nearest star to our solar system, and the nearest after Alpha Centauri among the naked eye stars.

Because of this, Sirius has a very high apparent proper motion of -1.21 arc seconds per year. Some 100,000 years ago it was near Cancer on the 'east' side of the Milky Way. Since then it has crossed the Milky Way and now rests on its 'west' bank. In the last 2000 years, for example, the position of Sirius has shifted some 45 arc minutes (almost half a degree) which is about one-and-a-half times the apparent size of the moon.

Plate 2: Sky region of the Duat

Throughout recorded history, and probably long before, Sirius was the subject of much veneration and myth making throughout the world. Even as late as the 1970s it became the subject of a very controversial theory linked to extra-terrestrials and the Dogon tribe of Mali published by the scholar and author Robert Temple.

There is much speculation on the origin of its modern name which is generally thought to be derived from the Greek word "Sirio" meaning "scorching" or "sparkling", apparently because it rose in the height of the summer heat. Some etymologists, however, have suggested a connection with the ancient Egyptian god Osiris. But of all the various names and epithets that this star was given, none can match the notoriety of its role in history as the "Star of Isis".

Since earliest times the ancient Egyptian paid particular attention to Sirius, which they identified to the 'soul' of the Goddess Isis. There was a time, very long ago, that Sirius could not be seen in the sky from Egypt. This was because of a phenomenon known as the Precession of the Equinoxes.

The Precession is a very slow wobble of our planet taking the polar axis of the Earth in a circular swing of 47 degrees every 26,000 years. The general effect is that the stellar landscape appears to swing up and down like a pendulum. Before the 12th millennium BC Sirius was below the horizon line as seen from the region of Cairo/Giza. It made its first appearance in the skies at that place in c.10,500 BC.

Then it had a declination of about 58 degrees 43', which meant it would have just been visible in the south about 1.5 degree above the horizon line. For early man to witnessing the 'birth' of such a bright star must have been a very impressive sight rich with meaning and messages from the gods. Also the rising of Sirius occurred when the constellation of Virgo was rising in the east, which may partly explain why the star became the symbol of a virgin-goddess. We do not know when exactly Sirius became identified to the goddess Isis, but the idea certainly goes back to the origin of Egyptian culture. It was from the 'womb' of Isis-Sirius that was born the divine child, Horus.

Plate 3: Isis and the Child Horus

The conception and birth of Horus occurred in a magical way as told in the myth of Isis and Osiris:


Isis and Osiris were among the four children born from the womb of the sky-goddess, Nut and fathered by Ra, the sungod. The other two children were Seth and Nephtys. Osiris took Isis as his wife, and they became the first rulers of Egypt. At the age of 28 Osiris was brutally killed by his jealous brother Seth and his body cut into fourteen pieces.

Isis recovered all of the pieces of Osiris' body except the phallus, which she could not find. Isis fashioned an artificial phallus for Osiris, placed herself on it in the form of a kite, and became pregnant with his seed. She then went into hiding in the marshes of the Nile, and gave birth to Horus. From the Pyramid Texts and various other religious writings, it is clear that this myth has its counterpart in the stars, with Isis identified to Sirius and Osiris to the constellation of Orion. In the Pyramid Texts it is said of Osiris-Orion:

"Your sister Isis comes to you rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues in her, she being ready as Sirius, and Horus Sopd (a star) has come forth from you as Horus who is in Sirius…" [Pyr. Text line 632]

Plate 4: Sirius-Isis following Orion-Osiris

Recreating the ancient skies of the early Dynastic Era (c.3300 BC) which took place just before the great Pyramid Age (c.2750 - 2100 BC) we find that the star Sirius performed a very evocative cycle in the heavens which readily explains why it was associated to a magical birth.

Because the earth moves around the sun, the fixed background of the stars appears to shift throughout the year in relation to the sun. Yearly observations of Sirius, for example, would show that there is a time when the star sets in the west immediately after sunset. After that the star is no longer visible for a period of about 70 days.

It will reappear again, however, just before sunrise in the east. This reappearance is known as the heliacal rising of the star. In c. 3300 BC the heliacal rising of Sirius occurred exactly on the day of the summer solstice (21 June Gregorian). Precession has since caused that date to shift 45 days, and now the heliacal rising of Sirius occurs on the 5th August.

The striking conjunction of the heliacal rising of Sirius and the summer solstice in 3300 BC was, in itself, a powerful omen; but there was something else also occurring at the same time which, quite literally, caused the whole of Egypt to be reborn. This was the annual flooding of the Nile. Since the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s, the annual flood of the Nile is fully controlled and regulated. But in ancient times (and until the turn of the late 19th century) the Nile would begin to swell in early June caused by the huge volume of water brought down river by the melting snows in the highlands of Central Africa.

By late June the water would begin to spill over the banks to eventually flood the whole Nile Valley by end July. We know for certain that the ancient Egyptians considered the heliacal rising of Sirius to be the magical cause of the Nile Flood. The heliacal rising of Sirius became the celestial sign that marked the beginning of the New Year. There are many ancient texts which refer to the conjunction of the 'New Year', the summer solstice, the start of the Flood and the appearance of Sirius which shows that this event was of the utmost importance to the Egyptians.

The oldest of these texts is carved on a small ivory tablet dated to the 1st Dynasty (c. 3100 BC) where it is said that "Sirius is the Opener of the Year's Flood". The very same notion is given in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2200 BC), where it is stated that: "It is Sirius, the beloved daughter (of Ra, the Sun-god), who prepares yearly sustenance (the flood) for you in her name of 'Year'". In his book Echoes of Ancient Skies, the archaeo-astronomer Dr. Ed Krupp writes that,

"After disappearing from the night sky (for 70 days) Sirius eventually reappears in the dawn, before the sun come up. The first time this occurs each year is called the star's heliacal rising, and on this day Sirius remains visible for only a short time before the sky gets too bright to see it. In ancient Egypt this annual reappearance of Sirius fell close to the summer solstice and coincided with the time of the Nile's inundation. Isis, as Sirius, was the 'Mistress of the Year's beginning', for the Egyptian new year was set by this event. New Year's ceremony texts at Dendera say Isis coaxes out the Nile and causes it to swell.

The metaphor is astronomical, hydraulic, and sexual, and it parallels the function of Isis in the myth. Sirius revives the Nile just as Isis revives Osiris. Her time in hiding from Seth is when Sirius is gone (70 days) from the night sky. She (Isis) gives birth to her son Horus, as Sirius gives birth to the new year, and in the texts Horus and the new year are equated. She is the vehicle for renewal of life and order. Shining for a moment, one morning in summer, she stimulates the Nile and starts the year."


It is known that on the east of the Great Pyramid once stood a building called the 'temple of Isis'. On the Inventory Stella dated to the 26th Dynasty, Isis is called "Mistress of the Pyramid". It is also possible that the capstone that once stood on the summit of this monument may have been associated in some way to Isis and Sirius.

It has often been suggested that the Fifth Division of the Duat (afterworld) depicted in the Book of the Dead showing a giant double-sphinx guarding a huge pyramid may be a stylised representation of the Giza necropolis. If so, then an interesting association can be made, for the pyramid of the Fifth Division shows the 'Face of Isis' on the summit instead of the capstone.

Plate 5: Fifth Division of the Duat
(compare with Giza necropolis viewed from South-east)

Perhaps more convincing is the Egyptian name of Sirius itself, or rather the way it is written with three hieroglyphic signs, a five-pointed star, a half-circle and a small pointed triangle. According to E.C. Krupp:

"One last peculiarity of the Egyptian treatment of Sirius appears to link it, through the cult of Osiris, to the Pyramids. The hieroglyphic inscription of Sirius:

includes an obvious symbol of a star and two other symbols that may be related to the Benben. The half circle was used to signify the Benben. The long, thin triangle is most reminiscent of a pyramid, or perhaps an obelisk… Just as the Benben symbolised the emergence of existence from non-existence, of the birth of the world, so Sirius, as the Bennu (Phoenix), recommemorated creation by alighting upon the Benben, be it obelisk, observation platform or pyramid…"

The Benben which Krupp is referring to was a very sacred stone that was once kept in the 'Temple of the Phoenix' at Heliopolis and which served as a model for the capstones of monumental pyramids and obelisks, also called Benbens.

Plate 6: The Benben (pyramidion) of Amenemhet III (Cairo Museum)

The 'Benben' (pyramidion) of the Great Pyramid has been missing since recorded history, and we cannot tell what it really looked like. It was probably made of black granite and covered with gold, possibly to symbolise the star. But perhaps the most convincing connection between the Great Pyramid and the star Sirius come from the interior design system of the pyramid.

From each of the two main chambers of the Great Pyramid i.e. the King's Chamber and the Queen's Chamber, emanate two long and narrow shafts, one going due north and the other going due south. It has been known since 1964 that these shafts had astronomical alignments to the stars when the pyramid was completed in c. 2500 BC.

Those of the King's Chamber were directed to the Pole Star Alpha Draconis (Thuban) in the north, and to the three stars of Orion's belt in the south. Over twenty years later, in 1987 I discovered that the southern shaft of the Queen's Chamber was directed to Sirius. Such associations between the Great Pyramid and Sirius is not surprising, as the pyramid was almost certainly the agency of astral rebirth of the pharaonic cult modeled on the myth of Osiris and Isis.

Plate 7: The Star shafts of the Great Pyramid (N-S cross section)


Throughout the ancient Egyptian civilisation the celebration of the birth of the divine child, Horus, from the womb of the goddess Isis was commemorated at the opening of the New Year when the star Sirius rose heliacally at dawn. But because of the effect of precession, the event shifted along the calendar at approximately the rate of 8.5 days every 1000 years. In 3300 BC the heliacal rising of Sirius occurred on the 21 June (Gregorian) as seen from Giza.

When Jesus was born the heliacal rising of Sirius occurred on the 19 July, and today it occurs on the 5 August. Some three hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Egypt had fallen under the rule of the so-called Ptolemys, Greek-pharaohs who ruled Egypt from 305 BC until 30 BC, the last being Queen Cleopatra VII. During this period the capital city of Egypt moved to Alexandria, where the pseudo-Egyptian cult of Sarapis was installed. Sarapis was a synthetic god modeled on the Egyptian god Asar-Hapi (Osiris-Apis), a name meaning 'Osiris of the Nile'.

Isis, quite naturally, became the consort of Sarapis and her cult flourished in Alexandria and the whole Mediterranean basin. It was adopted by many of the Roman legions and, through them, found its way into Western Europe. Temples of Isis have been found in Italy, France, Germany and as far as Oxford in England. Along with the cult of Isis also spread the celebration of the birth of Horus, called Hapocrates by the Greeks and identified to Apollo and Sol Invictus by the Romans. This event, as we have said, associated by the rising of the birth-star Sirius in the east at dawn.

Interestingly, when Julius Caesar introduced the so-called Julian Calendar, it was the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes who converted for Caesar the old lunar calendar into a solar one. There can be little doubt that Sosigenes borrowed the idea from the Egyptians, who had a solar calendar since at least 3300 BC.

This calendar, as we have seen, fixed the New Year with the heliacal rising of Sirius which, in Sosigenes' epoch, began in the month of 'July' and this, I would imagine, is probably why this particular month was named after Julius Caesar. His famous consort, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, was also a high priestess of Isis and Caesar dedicated in her honour a temple in the Rome Forum.

After the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC, Egypt became a Roman province, where there was a large Greek and Roman community in Alexandria as, more importantly, a great number of Jews who had fled Judea. With the rise of the newly formed Christianity in Egypt, the ancient mystery cult of the pharaohs that had mingled with those of the Greek and Romans, now also mingled with the Judeo-Christian ideologies.

Plate 8: Roman Isis and the child Horus (20 BC)

The basic tenets of these older mystery cults rested on the belief that "immortality" was achieved through the initiatory teachings of a "dying-resurrecting Son of God" and the symbolic re-enactment of his 'death' and 'rebirth'.

The Phoenician Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the Egyptian Osiris and the Alexandrian Sarapis, were all contenders for such a doctrine. The Romans furthermore had imported into Egypt the mystery cult of Mithras who also was a "dying-resurrecting Son of God" and, more intriguingly, whose 'birthday" was celebrated at sunset on the 25th December.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the early Christian community also celebrated the 'birth' of their own dying and resurrecting 'Son of God', Jesus, on the 25th December and with the idea of a nativity 'star in the east' to mark this supernatural event. But which star?


It is a strange peculiarity among the four canonical gospels that only one of them, the Gospel of Matthew, speaks of the birth of Jesus in relation to the appearance of a star in the east and the Magi. The Gospel of Matthew is also unique in its narrative of the 'flight into Egypt' by the Holy Family. But if these event are historically true, then why are the other Gospels so conspicuously silent on such a crucial and important event in the birth of the Messiah? Could it be that the event was not 'historical' at all but mythical?

It has long been believed by scholars that the 'Matthew' Gospel was probably written between 40 and 80 AD in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Now in Alexandria at the time of the writing of the 'Matthew' Gospel, the celebration of the new day and the new year were not anymore observed at dawn but at sunset to conform with both the Judeo-Christian tradition and Roman traditions of marking such events at sunset. In consideration of this, let us examine the sky at sunset looking east on the 25th December in c. 50 AD (the average date for the writing of the 'Matthew' Gospel) as seen from the latitude of Alexandria.

Plate 9: Heliacal Rising of Sirius at about one hour
before sunrise at the year 3300 BC on the Summer Solstice


Plate 10: Rising of Sirius at sunset at the year 50 AD on the 25 December.

Curiously, the starry picture that is afforded is exactly the same as that seen in ancient Egypt in c. 3300 BC at DAWN when the 'birth' of Horus from the womb of Isis was celebrated by the heliacal rising of Sirius. Here is what an observer in Egypt would have witnessed:

At about 4 h 28 GMT, the sun begins to set in the west at 28 degrees N of W. Some 35 minutes later, at about 5 h 03 GMT, the sun has fully set in the west. In the east, at exactly the same time, Orion's belt sits on horizon, about 2 degrees S of E.

A further 51 minutes, at 5 h 54 GMT, the sun has gone down about - 10 degrees below the western horizon, and the sky is now dark enough to see the stars with the naked eye. Looking east at exactly the same time, the star Sirius is seen rising in the east (Orion's belt is now about 25 degrees higher up over the eastern horizon, giving the illusion that it has 'heralded' the rising of Sirius).

The celestial imagery, therefore, is that on the 25th December, right after sunset, the three stars of Orion's belt were seen rising in the east as if to 'herald' the coming of the birth-star Sirius, which followed about one hour after.

It would be very unlikely that such a powerful celestial sign which was known to denote the 'birth of the divine child' in Egypt since time immemorial would not have been unnoticed by the writer of the 'Matthew' Gospel. It seems evident that the introduction of a new divine child (Jesus) born from the Madonna (Mary) in Egypt and the Graeco-Roman world would benefit greatly by absorbing the older and very powerful mythology of Isis and her star, Sirius.

Plate 11: Madonna and Child (Leonardo Da Vinci)

Thus Isis and the child Horus were metamorphosed into the Madonna and child Jesus, and the star Sirius became the 'Star of the East' which the wise men saw and heralded the birth of Jesus. Much later, three wise men became known as the 'three kings' in Western tradition and, in keeping with stellar symbolism, they also became identified to the three stars of Orion's belt.

In his book Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, the astronomer Richard H. Allen states that in European folklore the three stars in Orion's belt are often called the Magi or the Three Kings. And the Christian mythologist, Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote:

"There is the legend of the 'Three Kings of the Orient' who came on Christmas to adorn the new-born God… from days of old the Three Kings were the three conspicuous stars in the belt of Orion… that so easily distinguishes this notable constellation… and their title was for long the Three Kings of Orion… They point almost in a direct line to the following…Sirius (which) was made in the type of Christ-soul in mankind. (Sirius) is preceded by the Three Kings who anticipate its coming (rising)…"


Kuhn then proceeds to give a variant of the popular Christmas carol:

"We three kings of Orion are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
fields and fountains, moors and mountains,
following yonder star…"


Today, in our modern calendar, we celebrate the changing of the New Year at midnight on the 31st December. It is a strange synchronicity that at exactly that time, for the year 1999 and 2000 the star Sirius reaches it culmination at the meridian.

The Egyptian authorities had planned to place a golden capstone on the summit of the Great Pyramid at midnight on the 31st December 1999, to mark the start of the new age. The idea was to have a 4 meters high pyramidion made of light metal covered with gold sheet lowered into place by a military helicopter, and laser beams reflected on its surface during a concert performed by French musician Jean-Michel Jarre.

This event, however, was cancelled at the last minute due to pressure from the Arab press which claimed a "Masonic" connotation with the glowing capstone seen on the US one-dollar bill.

The full implications of this curious affair are discussed in my new book, Secret Chamber (Century Books, 1999) and in an article entitled "The Great Pyramid and the Freemasons" (HERA magazine Issue 2 February 2000).

Plate 13: Artist's impression (courtesy : Ano Cero © )

Had the placing of the capstone ceremony taken place, the whole event would have been a spectacular "reunion" of Sirius and its symbol to mark the new millennium. For as seen from the north face of the Great Pyramid and in alignment with the North-South axis (i.e. along the meridian), the star Sirius would appear to hover on top of the summit of the pyramid at precisely midnight on the 31st December, as if to urge us that its principal symbol, the golden capstone, has been missing for far too long.

In many esoteric traditions the capstone of the Great Pyramid, and more especially its return to the summit of the Great Pyramid, will signal the return of the 'great initiate' which, according to some prophecies, such as those of Edgar Cayce, signifies the return of the Christ. Many have argued that the true start of the new millennium is, in fact, 31st December 2000.

If so, then the Egyptian authorities still have another opportunity to perform this powerful and evoking ceremony. What better signal than the ancient star of 'divine rebirth' seen hovering over the golden capstone on top of the Great Pyramid of Giza to symbolise the start of a new spiritual age for Humankind.

Plate 13: Sirius A and its "companion" Sirius B (the small spot to the left)