A “pole star” is aligned with the Earth’s axis, pointing to either the North or South Pole (depending on which hemisphere the star is visible from). Due to axial procession—a “wobbling” of our axis that causes the planet to trace a giant circle in the sky every 26,000 years or so—we’ve actually had several different pole stars over the centuries. Our North Pole is currently aligned with Polaris, a star in Ursa Minor; but it will be succeeded in this position by Alrai (“the Shepherd”) in the constellation Cepheus sometime around the year 3000 CE (assuming, of course, that the Earth is still here by that point).
Previous pole stars have coincided with unique periods in human history. Circa 4000–1900 BCE, the pole was aligned with Thuban (“the Snake,” otherwise known as Alpha Draconis) in the constellation Draco. During that time, most religions in the world were polytheist, with goddesses being prominently worshiped. This seems fitting in light of the fact that the Egyptians identified Draco with Taweret, the fierce but benevolent hippo goddess of fertility and childbirth. The most advanced civilizations were Sumer and Egypt, and by the end of this timeframe, more patriarchal versions of polytheism began to develop in Babylon and Greece. This “Age of Thuban” lasted for about 2,100 years.
Circa 1900 BCE–500 CE, patriarchy started becoming the norm, and civilizations like Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome became the dominant superpowers. Monotheism also began to develop, with a prototype being forced upon the Egyptian people by Pharaoh Akhenaten’s “Armana heresy” in the 1300s BCE. Zorastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity all came into existence during this time as well. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that our pole star was no longer Thuban. The North Pole was now aligned with an empty space between two stars, Kochab and Pherkad (“the Two Calves”); so one might say there were actually two pole stars during this period, which lasted for approximately 2,400 years.
Circa 500 CE, Kochab and Pherkad were superceded by Polaris, which is our current pole star. By that point, the Roman Empire had fallen, Christianity had established itself as the dominant religion on Earth, and Islam would soon come along to give it a run for its money. Patriarchy and monotheism are both the norms in this current age, which will last for roughly 2,500 years. (As of this writing in January 2020, the Age of Polaris has about another 980 years to go, give or take a century.)
It’s interesting that snakes were so often tied to goddess worship in the ancient world. As patriarchal religions began to develop, the idea of the “combat myth” (in which a divine male warrior battles an evil chaos dragon) became more popular. In some of these stories (as in the Babylonian Enuma Elish), the dragon is depicted as being female (or as being under the power of a goddess, as with Ladon in Greek mythology). It is quite possible (but not proven) that in some cases, “killing the dragon” meant promoting the worship of a male deity over an earlier goddess religion. Fascinating, then, that the rise of the combat myth should coincide with the transition from Thuban as our pole star; could there be a correlation?
(As an aside: The combat myth of Set and
That Kochad and Pherkad were called “the Two Calves” implies a connection to bulls, which are typically a symbol of male power, fertility, and authority. The idea that there would be two bulls at the center of heaven is suggestive of division, competition, and conflict. Funny, then, that the Age of Kochad and Pherkad would be characterized by major competition between monotheism and polytheism. It’s also interesting to note that the name Polaris (our current pole star) simply means “Pole Star,” as if it were the only one we’ll ever have. With the normalization of monotheism, the idea that “There can be only ONE” of something has become the default perspective in common discourse (applied not only to religions, but also to fandoms, brand loyalties, musical tastes, political persuasions, and plenty else).
On another note, the seat of global dominance always seems to move west throughout history. It started with Sumer and Egypt; then it shifted to Greece and Rome; then it shifted to the British Empire; then it shifted to the United States. If this pattern is correct, China and Russia are next in line, and just from watching the news every day, I think we can already see this transition taking place right now. It is entirely possible that when Alrai becomes our new pole star circa 3000 CE, the major global superpower of that time will be located somewhere in the Middle East. I’ve always wondered what will happen when this westward transition of power finally comes full circle, and the Fertile Crescent becomes top dog again.
Gerald Massey and Kenneth Grant are not reputable Egyptological sources at all, and I recommend taking everything they ever wrote with a pinch of salt. But I happen to agree with both that Set’s worship is tied to when Draco was still the center of heaven, and when goddesses were still the majority. Setianism goes back 5,000 years at the very least, meaning it would have reached its height during the Age of Thuban. This is further supported by Set’s defiance of the stereotypical “maleness” that would later rise to prominence during the following age. He might be male, but Set has always inspired me to re-think “what it means to be a man,” and I am proud to fight the patriarchy with His thunder in my soul.