Volume IV Plate 21 - The Zodiac from the Temple of Hathor at Dendera ~ The East Osiris Chapel in the Temple of Hathor is a very old holy place. It was a respected place of pilgrimage where miraculous cures were effected by Hathor, the patroness of earthly love, the goddess of healing, and the great feminine source of all nourishment. The temple acted as a sort of hospital where both physical and magical therapies were practiced; and it was the scene of great processions and festivals throughout the astrological cycle. When found, the ceiling had been blackened by centuries of soot from torch lights used to illuminate the interior of the chapel.

This spectacular circular zodiac from ceiling of one of the rooms of the roof top chapel is circa 200 B.C. The original stone was cut and dynamited out of its home by a French archaeological vandal named Claude le Lorrain. When it arrived in Paris in 1838, the zodiac incited the curiosity of Parisian salons and institutes to such an extent that for several months it displaced all other topics and attracted crowds of viewers. King Louis XVIII eventually bought it for 140,000 francs, an immense sum at the beginning of the 19th century.

The Ancient Egyptians divided the night sky into 36 groups of stars, star-gods or constellations, known as decans, which rose above the horizon at dawn for a period of ten days every year and are illustrated around the edge of this circular zodiac. The ceilings of many royal tombs show the decans moving across the sky in boats. Since the Egyptians had a zodiac with 36 decans, some speculate that the Greeks took the Babylonian zodiac and added their own ideas to create the round zodiac. The zodiac is centered on the celestial North Pole as shown by the hippopotamus at its center, a symbol of the polar constellations, and the astrological figures are arranged on a spiral. The large figure on the right of the illustration is that of the goddess Hathor.

This very large engraving is an exact duplicate, carefully recreated in one-fiftieth scale. The original stone may be seen in the Louvre in Paris, and a plaster copy has replaced it in Egypt.


Zoom in on this image

Egyptian Stars Under Paris Skies