The Stairway to Heaven

From: Martian Metamorphosis

The Planet Mars in Ancient Myth and Religion

Martian Metamorphoses book cover
Sample Chapters:

The Death of Heracles
The Dragon Slayer

Simply send a check for $20, plus $2 postage, $8 for overseas delivery ($1 for each additional item, $5 overseas). Send to: to Aeon, PO Box 1092, Ames Iowa 50014. USA.

Pay online with Paypal:

One of the most frequently heard objections against the Saturn-theory is as follows: “How do we know that the mythical traditions surrounding the ancient gods actually have anything to do with the respective planets?”  In the earliest Egyptian, Vedic, and Greek mythological traditions, it is true, the planets are rarely mentioned (by name, that is). Why, then, do we insist that the respective planets were important players in these cultures?

We are not alone in this belief. For several decades now, the words of Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend have served as a rallying cry for those of us who believe ancient astronomical conceptions pervade myth:

“The real actors on the stage of the universe are very few, if their adventures are many. The most ‘ancient treasure’–in Aristotle’s word–that was left to us by our predecessors of the High and Far-Off Times was the idea that the gods are really stars, and that there are no others. The forces reside in the starry heavens, and all the stories, characters and adventures narrated by mythology concentrate on the active powers among the stars, who are the planets.” (1)

In recent years signs abound that other scholars are arriving at similar opinions. Linda Schele, arguably the most important Mayanist working in the field today, wrote as follows of the intimate link between Maya religion and astronomy:

“It seems that the interaction of astronomy and mythology was common in other cultures as well [as it was among the Maya]. Scholars working in South America have found similar kinds of systems in the Amazon…The Maya may have been using a way of thinking about the sky and using it in their mythology that was very ancient indeed. I’m even prepared to accept that much of the cosmology/mythology came straight across the Bering Strait, and that it may be 10,000 or 15,000 years old; it may be 20,000 years old. I think it may be possible that we have tapped into a very ancient stratum of human thought. If it did come across with the first Americans, then we may be in touch with one of the two or three great human intellectual traditions that we as a species have ever evolved, part of the fundamental ‘software’ that all of the peoples of the Americas and Asia have utilized.”(2)

Even Claude Levi-Strauss, a diehard structuralist and a leading proponent of a science of mythology, has lately acknowledged the astronomical content of ancient myth: “Max Muller and his school must be given great credit for having discovered, and to some extent deciphered, the astronomical code so often used by the myths.” (3)

Granted the possibility that ancient myth encodes astronomical traditions of one sort or another, how do we establish that point in cultures which did not make a habit of identifying the gods with the various celestial bodies? Here the comparative method is our surest guide. Although the ancient Egyptians did not have a well-developed astronomy identifying the various gods with the planets, their neighbors did. The Babylonians, and to some extent the Sumerians before them, identified their leading gods with the respective planets. That the Sumerian goddess Inanna was early on identified with the planet Venus is commonly acknowledged by scholars, (4) as is the identification of the war-god Nergal with the planet Mars. (5) Insofar as the Egyptian gods bear resemblance to their Babylonian counterparts, deductions can be made regarding their planetary identification. Following this strategy, we identified Horus with the planet Mars based upon numerous characteristics shared between the Egyptian god and Nergal. That this deduction has merit is supported by the fact that Horus was identified with the planet Mars in texts of the Hellenistic period. (6)

Yet even among scholars otherwise inclined to accept the possibility that astronomical conceptions color ancient myth, doubtless few will accept the claim defended by the authors of Hamlet’s Mill and proponents of the Saturn-thesis–that much of ancient myth is planetary in nature. Thus it remains the case that, with a few notable exceptions, scholars have not been inclined to trace the mythological traditions surrounding Inanna and Nergal to Venus and Mars. (7) Why this should be the case is perfectly obvious: It is difficult for orthodox scholars to imagine how Inanna’s various mythological attributes–fire-breathing dragon, eye-goddess, hanging goddess, lamenting goddess, etc.–could have anything to do with the Cytherean planet.

Nor is it obvious how one would explain Nergal’s intimate association with war, pestilence, floods, the underworld, and rebellion by reference to the planet Mars. The orthodox view, epitomized by Franz Cumont, regards the attributes of the various planets as mythologically generated and hence arbitrary and nonobjective in nature: “The qualities and influences which are attributed to them are due sometimes to astronomical motives…But most frequently the reasons assigned are purely mythological.”(8)

Of the several scholars who have attempted to interpret Nergal/Mars’ mythical characteristics as a reflection of the planet’s behavior and appearance, it must be said that their arguments have not been convincing. Witness the logic displayed by astronomer Anthony Aveni in his popular book, Conversing With the Planets:

“Because they once were earth gods, all the planets in the Sumerian pantheon had terrestrial dwelling places…The dwelling place of Mars (Nergal) was a violent domicile that generated the malevolence associated with the war god. Pliny attributes Mars’s fiery redness to its proximity to the sun, which can be deduced by the fact that it moves faster than Jupiter and Saturn. The names Assyrians gave to Mars also suggests [sic] anything but beneficence and dependability. He was the pestilential one, hostile and rebellious. War was another of Mars’s aspects, and some Assyriologists have suggested that this may have been associated with his blood red color, especially when he lies low over the land. Or is it the erratic motion Mars exhibits, well beyond that of the other planets?” (9)

Here, in one paragraph, Aveni traces Mars’ malevolence to Nergal’s terrestrial dwelling place; the planet’s fiery nature to its proximity to the sun; and the planet’s association with war to its red color or erratic motion. Only the latter suggestion could appeal to serious minded scholars. Elsewhere in the same book Aveni offers yet another source for the planet’s association with pestilence and famine: “Sky god Nergal (Mars) was the red feverishness of the summer that destroyed crops.”(10) The ad hoc nature of Aveni’s surmises is readily apparent.

Our view stands in marked contrast to that of Aveni. Rather than derive Mars’ various mythical characteristics from a host of different causes, we would trace the vast majority to ancient conceptions surrounding the red planet, these conceptions ultimately deriving from long-term preoccupation with the planet’s behavior and appearance throughout the years. But how does one go about proving this point?

Simply documenting that Nergal-like characteristics are ascribed to Mars in other Old World cultures–China, Greece, India, etc.–will not suffice, as archaeoastronomers can always point to diffusion as an explanation. According to the orthodox view, the connection between Mars and war/pestilence/etc. originated with ancient Babylonian speculations regarding the respective planets and is wholly subjective in nature, stemming from the arbitrary identification of the red planet with Nergal (i.e., the planet Jupiter might just as easily have been assigned Nergal as regent and thus come to be associated with pestilence). This is a reasonable position and not easily countered.

Here we would propose the following test: If Mars’ association with war and pestilence truly stems from the cult of Nergal and not from any objective phenomena associated with the red planet, one would hardly expect to find that New World skywatchers preserved similar traditions (that is, of course, unless one would be willing to entertain the hypothesis of diffusion of Babylonian astronomy to the New World). Yet if the New World sources preserve traditions paralleling those from the ancient Near East, a prima facie case is thereby made for the thesis defended here, which holds that the characteristic mythological traditions surrounding the respective planets stem from objective astronomical events and observations.

The Pawnee traditions surrounding Mars are of interest here. There the planet was known as the “Morning Star” and described as a male warrior dressed in red:

“The first one he placed in the heavens was Morning Star…He was to be dressed like a warrior and painted all over with red dust. His head was to be decked with soft down and he was to carry a war club. He was not a chief, but a warrior…This is Mars, u-pirikucu? (literally, ‘big star’), or the god of war.”(11)

One is naturally impressed that these natives identified the red planet as male and as a warrior, just like their Old World counterparts. How are we to explain such correspondences? By diffusion, or by common observation? If the latter, what is there about the red planet’s appearance or behavior which would explain its traditional maleness?

Such questions are best answered by documenting the incredible extent to which the constellation of specific traditions surrounding the planet Mars is supported throughout the world. Unfortunately, this task is beyond the scope of the present article. (12) Here we would simply offer as an example of the comparative method a peculiar tradition associated with Nergal, one with no obvious explanation in the current appearance or behavior of the red planet. If it can be shown that even this peculiar tradition has a counterpart in the New World, it would be difficult to maintain that it does not have some reference to the planet Mars, real or imagined.

Nergal on the Staircase

The epic known as Nergal and Ereshkigal from which we draw our account is attested from copies dating to Sultantepe of the 7th century BC and from Uruk of the Late Babylonian period. A curious episode in the epic finds Nergal ascending a stairway to heaven, ostensibly to reach the assembly of the gods:

“Nergal came up the long stairway of heaven. When he arrived at the gate of Anu, Ellil, and Ea, Anu, Ellil, and Ea saw him and said, ‘The son of Ishtar has come back to us.'”(13)

As a result of his climbing the stairway–or perhaps it was because of his impudence in confronting the gods–the Akkadian war-god is said to have “shrunk” in size or become otherwise deformed (the god is variously described as “withered,” “crooked,” “bald,” and with wildly rolling eyes).(14)  Several questions confront us at this point. If Nergal is to be looked upon as a personification of the planet Mars, what is the objective reference behind its relationship to a heavenly staircase? What is the significance of the phrase “son of Ishtar”? And why would the planet-god be described as experiencing a withering or deformation upon his ascent?

The idea of a staircase or ladder leading to heaven, as we have elsewhere documented, was well nigh universal in ancient times. (15) Eliade offered a similar opinion: “This idea of ‘ascension’ into heaven by means either of a rope, a tree, or a ladder, is fairly widespread in all five continents.”(16)

This theme is particularly prominent in ancient Egypt, where tiny ladders were placed in countless tombs of the Old and Middle Kingdom to aid the dead kings on their ascent to heaven. (17) A prominent theme in both the Pyramid and Coffin Texts makes the king mount a ladder, stair, or some other contrivance in order to reach the kingdom of the sun god. (18) A typical passage is as follows: “Stairs to the sky are laid for him that he may ascend thereon to the sky.” (19) Similar passages follow:

“A ladder to the sky shall be put together for you and Nut will extend her hands towards you….” (20)

“A stairway to the sky is set up for you among the Circumpolar Stars.” (21)

“A stairway to the sky is set up for me that I may ascend on it to the sky, as I ascend on the smoke of the great censing.” (22)

“A ladder is set up for him that he may ascend on it.” (23)

“I ascend on this ladder which my father Re made for me.” (24)

As this last passage illustrates, the king was identified with the son of the ancient sun-god, typically with Horus, the latter of whom is said to have made the first such ascent. (25) Yet the king was also identified with a star, particularly in the form of Horus as “Morning Star.” It is as a star that the king is implored to mount the ladder in order to join Re: “The King is a star in the sky among the gods…bring to the king [the ladder] which Khnum has made that the King may ascend on it to the sky and escort Re in the sky.” (26)

In one passage, it is Horus who, as a star, mounts a pole-like contrivance (sdsd) in order to ascend to heaven:

“You will ascend to the sky as Horus upon the sdsd of the sky…as Horus who is at the head of the spirits…May you remove yourself to the sky, for the roads of the celestial expanses which lead up to Horus are cleared for you…for you have traversed the Winding Waterway in the north of the sky as a star crossing the sea which is beneath the sky….” (27)

In another hymn Horus announces his intention to join Re in heaven: “Let the ladder of the god be given to me, let the ladder of Set be given to me, that I may ascend on it to the sky and escort Re…” (28) That Horus bore an intimate connection with the celestial ladder is likewise confirmed by the god’s epithet nb mak.t, “lord of the ladder.” (29)

Tales from the Watunna

The Watunna is a compendium of the sacred traditions of the Makirtare Indians, a people living along the banks of the Orinoco river in what is now Venezuela. It tells of the various adventures of the Heavenly ancestors in primordial times. Still living in the Stone Age, the Makirtare have remained virtually free of outside influence aside from the occasional visit from a Spanish explorer or anthropologist. Indeed, according to de Civrieux, the anthropologist who first recorded the Watunna, “this region of mountains and virgin forest has remained almost unexplored up to this day.” (30)

As an oral tradition, the Watunna has been preserved since the dawn of time through the miracle of human memory:

“This tradition, which the Makirtare call Watunna, has been handed down from generation to generation since the beginning of time in a series of magico-religious festivals known as Wanwanna…The Watunna is in its essence a secret teaching restricted to the circle of men who undergo the initiations of the Wanwanna festivals.” (31)

Among the several gems preserved in this document is one telling of a hero’s ascent to heaven via a ladder formed from a chain of arrows:

“We’re going to heaven. Okay. Who’ll go? Who’ll be first? Who’s going with the arrows?” There was another man named Ahishama. He was very wise. “Can you?” Wlaha asked? “I’ll go,” Ahishama answered…He turned him into a bird. He was beautiful, brilliant, with orange-colored feathers, and very fast and light. His name was Ahishama, the troupial [a species of bird]. There was another man. “Can you?” “I’ll go.” He turned him into a frog…They called him Kutto…Wlaha shot. The arrow sped out. It flew up. Troupial flew up. Frog leapt. Wlaha screamed: “Fly! Jump! Catch it! Tie it! Ahishama was carrying the end of a vine in his beak. We call that vine he had sahudiwa, vine-chain. It’s a long, long vine, all wrinkled and creased…The seven Wlaha shot another arrow and then another and another. Seven arrows in all. They hung there in space, seven rungs tied to that big vine. It was the ladder, the road to Heaven. That Troupial and Frog built. Ahishama and Kutto. They climbed up without a ladder. When they built it there was no road.

They were the first ones to arrive. Right away they changed. They started shining. They were the first two stars in the black night. The very first was Ahishama, then Kutto. Now that Troupial named Ahishama burns orange (Mars). He built the ladder in space. That’s what they say.”(32)

Here, once again, we find the planet Mars linked with an ascent upon a ladder leading to Heaven. If nothing else, this tradition should convince critics that astronomical imagery informs the ancient myths, in the New World as well as the Old. That said, how are we to explain the Makirtare tradition? As a result of diffusion? Diffusion from where? Certainly not from Babylon itself, for there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Babylonian astronomical conceptions made their way to the New World, much less to the all but inaccessible rain forests of Venezuela. Diffusion from anywhere, as we have seen, is highly unlikely given the secluded existence long maintained by these natives. The only conceivable way diffusion could account for this overlapping of traditions would be for the ancestors of the Makirtare to have carried their version of the Mars-ladder with them across the Bering Strait, but this seems most unlikely since it would seem to require that the Babylonian/Assyrian tradition surrounding Nergal emanated from the same cultural milieu (Siberia?), a supposition for which there is not a shred of evidence.

The Chain of Arrows

Apparent in this account from the Watunna is the widespread mythological theme of the chain of arrows. Here a hero typically shoots a series of arrows to heaven in order to form a ladder upon which to climb. Not infrequently, the arrow-ladder leads to the house of the Sun. The following account, from the Tsimshian Indians of North America, offers a representative example of this theme:

“The sky is a beautiful open country. It is reached through the hole in the sky, which opens and closes…The sky may also be reached by means of a ladder which extends from the mountains to the sky. Another person reached the sky by means of a chain of arrows. He shot one arrow, which hit the edge of the hole in the sky; the next arrow hit the nock of the first one; and by continuing this way a chain was made, along which he ascended. After reaching the sky, the visitor finds himself on a trail which leads to the house of the Sun chief. In this house the Sun lives with his daughter…The Sun’s daughter is the Evening Star. On leaving the sky, the traveler comes to the edge of a flat prairie, whence he may slide down on the rays of the sun, which reach down to our earth.” (33)

Several motives are of interest here. (34) In addition to the universal motive of the symplegades, one finds an allusion to the “road of the sun,” a concept likewise found in Babylonian astronomy, there associated with the planet Saturn. (35) Significantly, Babylonian omens warn of the dire consequences should Mars reach the road of Saturn. (36) Most important for our purposes here, however, is the report that the Sun’s daughter is identified as the Evening Star; i.e., the planet Venus. As we have documented elsewhere, the planet Venus is frequently described as the daughter (or wife) of the ancient sun-god.

From North America we turn to Australia, where an interesting variation upon the chain of ladder theme can be found. That the various aboriginal peoples showed a “remarkable interest in the movement of the planets” has been noted by more than one anthropologist. (37) Consider, for example, the following myth collected from the Jaralde tribe, an aboriginal people of South Australia who did not know the use of bow and arrows. Once upon a time, they report, a primeval figure named Waijungari threw a lance to heaven which, upon sticking, forthwith allowed the hero to climb to heaven. There Waijangari continues to live, as the planet Mars. (38)

Here, once again, the planet Mars is associated with an ascent to heaven. The resemblance to the myths from Assyria and South America is apparent.

Confronted with complementary traditions from the ancient Near East, Australia, and the tropical rain forests of South America, it is difficult to avoid drawing the conclusion that the respective traditions linking Mars with a celestial staircase reflect common observations of the movements of the red planet. Yet here, too, questions abound. For what could be the objective reference of the celestial staircase?

The idea of a celestial staircase, it can be shown, is simply a variation upon the widespread theme of a World Pillar or axis mundi, the latter thought to extend along the polar axis, thereby connecting the respective sacred worlds (heaven, earth, and underworld). (39) As Eliade and others have documented, such ideas have been around since the dawn of time: “Ascent to the sky along the Axis of the World is a universal and archaic idea.” (40) The same scholar goes on to summarize this theme and its attendant myths as follows:

“If we try to achieve a general view of all the myths and rites just briefly reviewed, we are struck by the fact that they have a dominant idea in common: communication between heaven and earth can be brought about–or could be in illo tempore–by some physical means (rainbow, bridge, stairs, ladder, vine, cord, ‘chain of arrows’, mountain, etc., etc.). All of these symbolic images of the connection between heaven and earth are merely variants of the World Tree or the axis mundi.” (41)

That the planet Mars was itself linked to ancient conceptions of the World Pillar has been documented by other scholars in addition to Talbott and myself. (42) Thus, in A Dictionary of Symbols, Cirlot reports that: “The Tree of Life, when it rises no higher than the mountain of Mars…is regarded as a pillar supporting heaven.” (43)

As to the objective form of the axis mundi itself, Eliade follows Holmberg in supposing it to have reference to the North polar axis. If so, the question arises as to how the planet Mars can be said to be intimately associated with the polar axis? Certainly it is hard to visualize how a planet like Mars, which typically moves along the ecliptic, could be imagined to have ascended along the polar axis. The very same question applies to the sun and Venus, both of whom are associated with the ladder to heaven.

Here a little reflection should suffice to convince the reader that an abstract concept like the polar axis could never account for the rich imagery to be found in these myths of a hero’s ascent along a celestial staircase. Rather than an invisible theoretical construct like the polar axis, it seems clear that the ancients had a more substantive image in mind when they spoke of a ladder spanning the heavens and serving as a road to the sacred homeland of the ancient sun-god.

If we approach the mythology surrounding the celestial staircase from the vantage point of the Saturn thesis, it will be found that each and every theme is readily explained. According to that thesis, the planets Saturn, Venus and Mars were once involved in a unique configuration of sorts, all of the planets sharing a common axis of rotation together with the Earth, with Saturn residing in the furthest “North,” and the much smaller Venus and Mars orbiting between the gas giant and Earth. As the terrestrial skywatcher looked upwards, he saw a towering planetary “shishkabob” hovering overhead, with Saturn dominating the sky. Venus and Mars originally appeared set plumb within the core of the gas giant, as in figure one.

Figure One

Yet the ancient texts leave no room for doubt that the red planet periodically left this central position and moved towards the Earth along the polar axis, presumably because it then moved upon an elliptical orbit between Venus and Earth. With the descent of Mars, a stream of aetherial debris became strung out along the axis, presenting the appearance of a fiery pillar spanning the skies. At various times, this pillar became associated with a number of bands (typically 7 or 9), thereby providing the visual basis behind the “rungs” of a ladder (or, alternately, “limbs” of a celestial tree).  (44) Figures two and three offer various examples of celestial “ladders” from ancient rock art.

Figure Two

Armed with this overview, we can now understand why the ladder to heaven was viewed as a road leading to the home of the ancient sun-god (Saturn). In primordial times there really was a fiery road spanning the skies which, if followed, would lead to Saturn. We can also understand why Venus would be viewed as residing together with the ancient sun-god atop the World Mountain, as this is exactly the relationship which prevailed between Saturn and Venus atop the axis mundi. Mars, finally, thanks to the eccentricity of its orbit, appeared to go up and down the polar axis, thereby giving rise to its mythological reputation as a ladder-climber. (45) Inasmuch as Mars’ climbing the axis mundi actually involved its removal from the immediate vicinity of the Earth, it stands to reason that it would gradually diminish in size. Hence the report that Nergal “shrank” as he climbed the celestial staircase. Nergal’s description as “son of Ishtar,” meanwhile, would appear to have reference to that time when Mars reached the apex of its orbit, actually moving to within the visual outlines of Venus, whereupon it was envisaged as the embryo or “son” of the Venusian goddess. (46)

Figure Three


It is our opinion that the widespread mythological tradition linking the planet Mars to an ascent to heaven along a celestial ladder can never be explained by reference to the current skies. For where is there to be found a celestial ladder leading to the home of the ancient sun-god? In what sense can the current sun be said to live at the zenith of the sky atop a mountain together with the planet Venus? And even if an Anthony Aveni can be found who would dream up an ad hoc explanation for the celestial ladder–the Milky Way, perhaps?–it would still be encumbant upon him to explain how and why Mars should be consistently identified as the celestial body wont to ascend this ladder. Here it is the very specificity and complexity of the various themes uniting Mars to the celestial stairway that cries out for explanation. And it is the specificity and complexity of these traditions surrounding Mars that supports their origin in the objective appearance and behavior of the red planet, albeit in a solar system differently ordered than at present.


1. Hamlet’s Mill (Boston, 1969), p. 177.

2. Quoted in R. Wertime & A. Schuster, “Written in the Stars: Celestial Origin of Maya Creation Myth,” Archaeology 46:4 (July/August, 1993), p. 32.

3. Naked Man (New York, 1981), p. 44.

4. W. Heimpel, “A Catalog of Near Eastern Venus Deities,” Syro-Mesopotamian Studies 4:3 (1982), pp. 9-13.

5. E. Weiher, Der babylonische Gott Nergal (Berlin, 1971), p. 76.

6. E. Budge, From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt (New York, 1988), p. 244.

7. A notable exception here is the great Sumerologist Bendt Alster, who has attempted to interpret various aspects of Inanna’s mythology in light of the behavior of the planet Venus.  See his “On the Interpretation of the Sumerian Myth ‘Inanna and Enki’,” ZA 64 (1975), pp. 20-34.

8. F. Cumont, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (New York, 1960), p. 66-67.

9. Conversing With the Planets (New York, 1992), p. 52.

10. Ibid., p. 47.

11. J. Murie, “Ceremonies of the Pawnee: The Skiri,” in Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 27 (1981), pp. 38-39.  I am indebted to Milton Zysman for drawing my attention to this source.

12. For a marshalling of such evidence, see the author’s recently published Martian Metamorphoses (Ames, 1997).

13. Translation from S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford, 1991), p. 171.  See also the discussion in E. von Weiher, Der babylonische Gott Nergal (Berlin, 1971), p. 52; J. V. Wilson, The Rebel Lands (London, 1979) p. 98; and O. Gurney, “The Sultantepe Tablets,” Anatolian Studies 10 (1960), pp. 125, 130.

14. E. von Weiher, op. cit., p. 52.

15. E. Cochrane, “The Milky Way,” Aeon 4:4 (1996), pp. 46-57.

16. M. Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (New York, 1958), p. 103.

17. E. Budge, The Mummy (Cambridge, 1925), pp. 324-326.

18. See the discussion in W. Davis, “The Ascension-Myth in the Pyramid Texts,” JNES 36:3 (1977), pp. 161-179.   See also H. Blok, “Zur altagyptischen Vorstellung der Himmelsleiter,” Acta Orientalia 6 (1928), pp. 257-269.

19. Pyramid Texts 1108 (hereafter PT).  See also J. Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (Philadelphia, 1959), p. 110.

20. R. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, Vol. 1 (Warminster, 1973), p. 58.

21. PT 773-774.  See R. Faulkner, “The King and the Star-Religion in the Pyramid Texts,” JNES 25 (1966), p. 156.

22. PT 365.

23. PT 1431.

24. PT 390.  See R. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Oxford, 1969), p. 79.

25. See the discussion in Whitney, op. cit., p. 168.

26. PT 1586.  See R. Faulkner, op. cit., p. 238.

27. PT 800ff.  See also the following passages: 539, 540, 1036.

28. PT 973-975.

29. PT 974, 980.  See also T. Allen, Horus in the Pyramid Texts (Chicago, 1916), p. 17.

30. M. de. Civrieux, Watunna: An Orinoco Creation Cycle (San Francisco, 1980), p. 1.

31. Ibid., p. 12.

32. Ibid., pp. 113-114.

33. F. Boas, “Tsimshian Mythology,” ARBAE 31 (1916), pp. 453-454.

34. Interestingly enough, the very same idea of ascent/descent by means of the sun’s rays can be found in the earliest Egyptian texts.  See, for example, the following passages from the Pyramid Texts: 751, 1680, 1108.

35. M. Jastrow, “Sun and Saturn,” Revue d’Assyriologie 7 (1909), p. 165.

36. . Ibid., pp. 165ff.

37. H. Cairns, “Aboriginal sky-mapping,” in C. Ruggles ed., Archaeoastronomy in the 1990’s (Leicestershire, 1993), p. 139, quoting Tindale.

38. W. Tindale, “The Legend of Waijungari…,” Records of the South Australian Museum 5:3 (1935), pp. 261-274.  I am indebted to Dave Talbott for this reference.  See Talbott’s discussion of this myth in “Servant of the Sun-God,” Aeon II:1 (1990), pp. 47-48.  See also the discussion in R. Pettazzoni, “The Chain of Arrows: The Diffusion of a Mythical Motive,” Folklore 35 (1924), pp. 161-162.

39. See the extensive discussion of this theme in M. Eliade, Shamanism (Princeton, 1964), pp. 259ff.

40. Ibid., p. 274.

41. Ibid., p. 492.

42. See the discussion in E. Cochrane, “The Spring of Ares,” Kronos XI:3 (1986), pp. 15-21.

43. J. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols (New York, 1962), p. 330.

44. See the discussion in D. Cardona, “The Mystery of the Pleiades,” Kronos 3:4 (1978), pp. 38-40.

45. As we have documented elsewhere, the same scenario accounts for the tendency of the Martian hero to alternately assume a gigantic or dwarf-like form.

46. See here the discussion in E. Cochrane, “The Death of Heracles,” Aeon 2:5 (1991), pp. 63-68.