Interesting lecture given by visiting Professor Bernard Faure.  I arrived during the introduction and managed to squeeze in a seat at the back.  This was a well attended lecture.  The subject was exotic enough to attract an audience interested in religious studies.  Perhaps the university needs to put on more lectures like this to supplement its regular diet of theological lectures.  Theology and Religious Studies is one department at Otago.  There’s obviously an appetite for Religious Studies in Dunedin that caught the organisers by surprise.

The introductory premise is that there is a lot of star worship going on in Esoteric or Tantric Buddhism.  This is not picked up in western Buddhism, who want their practise to be rational and intellectual without the religious life that exists in Asian Buddhism.  Western Buddhism risks being rather thin soup.

The physicist Planck kept a horseshoe hanging on his door.  He didn’t believe it gave him good luck, or protected him from harm, but it can’t hurt, so long as it’s securely fastened, of course.

Here below as above: the human microcosm reflects the universal macrocosm.  So if an cosmic event occurs in the heavens, be prepared to duck.  It’s your advanced warning that an event is going to happen on the earth.  Your best chance is to start running now!

It works in with the ancients’ concept of the cosmology of the spheres that exist in orbit around the earth, which they perceived as, working inwards, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury, Moon.  It created the odd pattern of naming the week.  Each planet rules an hour of the day in a seven hour cycle.  The hour that begins the day names the day.  Sunday, Moonday, Marsday, Mercurysday, Jupitersday, Venusday, and Saturnsday.  I think I’ve got that right, the order of Mercury and Jupiter confuses me.

The idea of the zodiac was borrowed from the old world into Asia, reaching India in the third century, China in the seventh, and Japan in the tenth.  China toyed around with it, then went back to using their old method.  Curiously it survived in Japan and Korea, and was adopted into their cosmological mandalas.  The western zodiac is made up of twelve constellations which the sun moves through on the ecliptic plane.  The Chinese zodiac is the movement of Mercury through different parts of the sky over a twelve year period, giving the twelve year cycle of animal names, like the Year of the Snake.  I was born in the Year of the Wood Snake.

These cosmological mandalas become a model of a protective area for the astrologer.  Once the astrologer understands the stars and the interpretation of the mandala they can use it to have power over the stars.

This practice was repressed in the Christian West.  Chaucer was aware of it and uses it in his Canterbury Tales where he has Greek knights of legend praying variously to Mars and Venus during their holy hours of the day.  I think it was also used in mediaeval healing practices where parts of the body were identified with the planets.  I think I would give extra points to any author who included a pantheon like this into a fantasy novel.  I don’t think I’ve read anyone who has attempted it.