Monday, 24 October 2011

Star-Gayzing 2


Today the sun enters the zodiac sign of Scorpio. Actually it enters Scorpio for only one week from 23rd November – but horoscopes are fiction not fact.

When I began my research into “Star Gayzing” I came across a reference in “The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality” (edited by Wayne R. Dynes, 1990) which said that “a neo Babylonian text of c.500 BC says that ‘love of a man for a man’ is governed by the constellation Scorpio.” No matter how much I’ve looked I can’t find any other supporting reference.

The Babylonians believed that when the sun set it entered a tunnel into the underworld and came out at the other end each morning. The entrances to this tunnel were guarded by scorpion-men. When Scorpio rose in the night sky the Babylonians saw this as a sign that the sun would spend more time in the underworld.

Plants begin to die, the nights get longer, the days get colder, and ancient civilisations in general celebrated the “end of all things” at this time of the year. That’s why the ancients chose it as their year’s end and why they put so much emphasis on the dead (see my coming entry on Hallowe’en).

The only lgbt connection I can make with Scorpio comes with this idea of the descent into the underworld. The legendary King Gilgamesh travels to the mouth of the tunnel hoping to be allowed into the underworld in search of immortality. The scorpion-men, knowing Gilgamesh is a favourite of the sun god, let him pass.

Gilgamesh was a promiscuous ruler, having his wicked way with anyone he wished. So the goddess of creation created a wild man called Enkidu out of clay. Enkidu’s purpose was to show Gilgamesh the true meaning of love. It worked. After the obligatory fight when they first meet (a common folk motif in heroes, Robin Hood and Little John is another example), Gilgamesh and Enkidu became friends and companions on many adventures. The surviving version of the Epic makes many puns and references to the intimate sexual nature of their relationship. Perhaps they are the very first “gay” heroes, the Epic dating from the time of the fictional movie heroes Conan and the Scorpion King, and predating the Ancient Greek heroes such as Hercules by 1,000 years.

When Gilgamesh turns down an amorous approach from the goddess of love the gods punish him by killing Enkidu. This is why Gilgamesh travelled to the underworld in search of immortality.

Perhaps the Epic of Gilgamesh and his journey to the underworld was especially commemorated at this time of year in Babylonia, when Scorpio rises and the way to the underworld is revealed. Perhaps that is why the later Babylonians equated the constellation with the “love of a man for a man” – Gilgamesh’s love for Enkidu led to his journey.

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