Christmas day and the pagan "Sol Invictus"

(Jon) #101

Yeah those are killer quotations, totally destroys the entire idea. It’s largely a relic of nineteenth century polemics.


Jonathan, to be quite honest, I think I’m done with this conversation on the 25th of December. I think we’ve both documented irrefutable evidence that the claim is a fiction. I would insist you restrain from addressing any more comments on this discussion as well. Although this verse has to do with the law, it is still of relevance here:

Titus 3:10: Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

We must avoid fruitless conversation, for both the sake of our sanity and our time.

(Jon) #103

Yeah we’re done here, we’ve laid out mountains of evidence, George acknowledges he thinks there was some pagan festival or whatever on December 25 but doesn’t know who or what it was celebrating, or who was celebrating it, and can’t find any evidence for it, so there’s nothing more to say.


Perhaps it was Intelligent Designer Day, when at some unknown time some designer or group of designers, using some unknown methods, designed something or several things.


This has been like a toilet that’s been running for years. Thank you, Korvexius, for jiggling the handle!

(George Brooks) #106

Huh, not a very good description of my position.

My position is that
A) the 3 day pause of the sun’s daily progression southward along the horizon is a real astronomical finding,
which led some cultures to consider the Solstice to be a 3 day affair, rather than a one day affair. By making December 22 the date of the beginning of the Solstice, December 25 becomes the day the solstice ends and the sun is on the move back northward along the horizon.

B) various and multiple pagan cultures found religious significance to December 25, as the day the sun began to move after a 3 day pause.

C) these cultures included Sumerian>Assyrian>Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek/Roman at the very least. There may be sufficient evidence for the Persians and/or Indian/Hindi culture as well.

This is in contrast to Jonathan and others who apparently insist that there is no evidence that any Pagan culture took an interest in December 25 - - which presumably means all the interpretations on December 25 are inspired only by Christianity - - which is definitionally unavoidable if one claims that there is no evidence for, and thus no reason for believing, any pagan culture to be interested in December 25 until Christians started to surmising that Jesus was born on December 25.


Can you show us any astronomical source that mentions this three day rising of the sun?

(Lynn Munter) #108

This is a neat bit of hopscotch. The three days of the Solstice, astronomically speaking, would be the day before and the day after the actual Solstice: if the Solstice is the 22nd, the three days are the 21st through 23rd. If the Solstice is the 21st, they become the 20th through 22nd. If you want to claim that people celebrated it in other ways, it is only reasonable to ask you to cite sources and specifics.


A thought just occurred to me. The people who we are discussing all used lunar calendars which do not stay in sync with the earth’s rotation around the sun. Until the Julian calendar was adopted you couldn’t say that the solstice happened on any fixed date. It had to be determined by observation.

This lead to a second thought. What where they observing? Three things come to mind. On the day of the solstice the position of the sun at local noon would be at it’s lowest above the southern horizon. The azimuth of the sun rise or sunset is at it’s most southern bearing. And the length of the day goes from getting shorter to getting longer. For all of these the change day to day at this time is year is very small and would require careful observation or a good clock to really nail it down to the exact day, or 3, of the solstice. I will say that even with a good clock, calendar, and compass I tend to notice the change in the length of day.

So I don’t think you can say the pagans took an interest in a calendar date that wasn’t even defined by them.

Now when the Christians came along they were using the Julian calendar so they could know the solstice would be on December 21, 22, usually, 20 or 23 rarely.

(George Brooks) #110

I have responded to your earlier post.

I have no interest in responding to this post. I gave you a video, and you said everything in the video was made up. The point of the video was not to prove something about the Southern Cross, it was to demonstrate how the Sun behaves at sunrise from December 22 to December 25. I would have much more compassionate about your reaction to the video if you hadn’t dug yourself such a deep hole telling me that I was passing off imaginary astronomical information… followed by more ardent digging on your part claiming that there was no pagan culture anywhere who cared at all about December 25.

It’s not nice to mock Mother Nature.

Sidenote: Some sources over-eager, even ecstatic, references to the Southern Cross are not wrong… the sources are just neglecting to say that the Southern Cross is only visible from the an extreme southern point of the Nile River (one of possible 3 locations: Aswan, Abu Simbel or Khartoum; I am not sure which is being referenced). Naturally I agree that there is no point in bringing in the Southern Cross when discussing December 25; it’s not relevant).

(George Brooks) #111


Now you?

What is being described is the progression of the sunrise emerging from southernmost point of the Eastern horizon, during the last 365 sunrises. By modern astronomers’ reckoning (with all the appropriate leap year calculations and so forth) this day is usually December 22. December 23 the sun actually rises just a little bit north of where it rose the day before - - on its new northern leg of its sunrises - - until it reaches the northernmost point at the Summer Solstice. But because this is a very tiny difference, many ancient schools of astronomy treat it as essentially the same as the day before, and the same as the next day. Some ancient astronomers characterized the Winter Solstice as a “three day” rather than as a “one day” event. As the literal meaning of “solstice” implies [Sun-Standing], this behavior represents 3 days of the sun “standing” at the same spot on the horizon (or the appearance of it), working its way northward again after its 6 month effort to reach the southern-most point on the horizon at sunrise.

December 25 is the first day the sun starts to move it’s Sunrise location on the horizon northward - - until reaching the northern-most point of its sunrise at the Summer Solstice, where it starts back in the other direction. A typical globe map of the Earth (and the better sundials) include a drawing called the Analemma which is a graphical representation of the sun’s daily/weekly/monthly/annual shift…

A typical globe map of the Earth (and the better sundials) include a drawing called the Analemma which is a graphical representation of the sun’s daily/weekly/monthly/annual shift…

[Edited] - analemmas for any given spot remain the same year after year, using solar time, rather than humanly contrived time. If you are taking daily pictures of the sun, you wouldn’t follow the “fall back/spring forward” rule of daylight savings… you would use the same time, exactly 24 hours after the first photo/point, and so on, for 365 days.

[As @Bill_II discusses in a post below, I am hoping I am paraphrasing correctly: the analemma provides the adjustment for a sun dial, to adjust the sun’s natural time to human time. Bill, if there is a better way (or more accurate way) to describe this, I welcome it.]

The length, width and angle of the figure eight pathway varies according to each spot chosen to calculate the analemma… with the shape and angle of the analemma being unique to each latitude (lines that are parallel to the Equator) of the Earth.

December 25, Paganism, Christmas ... again
(George Brooks) #112

Not quite, @Lynn_Munter.

The modern treatment of the Winter Solstice is the day at which the sunrise is at the southern-most limit of a year’s worth of sunrises. For modern astronomers, that is just one day – period. But the next two days are awfully close to the same thing!

So the ancient treatment of the next 2 days was sometimes to treat all three days as the Winter Solstice.

However, even with that, the very clever Prof. Hijmans still managed to end his very well written article with the statement that December 25 was the Winter Solstice.

This is probably not categorically wrong … if some ancient societies didn’t consider the Solstice over until the Sun started it’s northern progression again… which would be the day that the great Cosmic Light of the Universe (Jesus) began his emergence on the mortal sphere, symbolically, as represented by the movement of the Sun from the southern dimness of the Winter, on its way to maximal light in the Summer.

(Lynn Munter) #113

What you are suggesting here seems to be that the sun is actually standing “still” for five days. It is astronomical fact that it moves just as little on the two days before the Solstice as it does on the two after. Do I have that right?

(George Brooks) #114

@Lynn_Munter, ahhhh… .nice!

Here is an analemma… which is literally assembled by taking 365 “images” (either as mathematical points or as photographs) of the sun, every day, at exactly the same time… whatever time you pick. The longer after sunrise you pick, the higher up in the sky the analemma’s “figure 8” starts.

Yes, I agree with you. As you can see by the symmetry (more or less) of the top and the bottom of the figure 8 path, you can see that the Sun starts to slow down before it reaches its most “southerly” (or “northerly”) point. I edited this sentence; originally I used the phrase “lowest point” - - but you can see that the lowest or highest points of the figure 8 are not the same as the most extreme tips of the analemma – where the bottom tip is its most southerly extreme (and the top is its most northerly extreme).

But to the superstitious minds of the ancients, the drama doesn’t start until the sun is at its lowest point! Astronomers would pick a point on the horizon, and a reasonably high vantage point, to see the sunrise before any “peasant on the ground” could see the sunrise.

And so, by making this an early-morning affair, Priests can accentuate the drama of forecasting where the groundlings would see the sun come up … and when it would happen. All the groundlings needed to know is that there wouldn’t be a summer if the sun didn’t start its progression of sunrises moving northward along the horizon.

The fact the Sun slowed down before it “died a 3 day death” wasn’t really the worry. The “worry” was, what if the Sun didn’t ever start moving back northward along the horizon. That would be disastrous!

Sidenote: … “disastrous” and “disaster” are words based on the ancient terms for “bad star” … “Dis - Astro”.

Word Origin
first used in the 1500’s - (originally in the sense: malevolent astral influence):
from Italian ‘disastro’,
from dis- (pejorative) + astro star,
from Latin astrum,
from Greek astron

Note: I believe those yellow dots represent 14 day intervals… or something close to that.

(Lynn Munter) #115

Uh oh, George, you are almost beginning to make sense! I’m not quite sure which direction is “northward” in your picture—leftward? Upward? I think you probably ought to mean upward—but again, this seems to be a vague hypothetical without sources. Which priests, and when? How do we know they did this?


Not to get picky but it moves south for 182.5 days and north for 182.5 days, roughly.

Usually the 21 or 22 but can be on the 20 or the 23 of our highly accurate calendar.

For Jerusalem the sunrise azimuths for this year are
Dec 19 118.00 degrees
Dec 20 118.02
Dec 21 118.03
Dec 22 118.03
Dec 23 118.02
Dec 24 118.01

Without an accurate way to determine the sunrise azimuth I don’t see how you could tell the difference.

Sunrise at the summer solstice is 60.56 degrees so the change is 57.47 degrees in 182 days or 0.3 degrees a day assuming a constant rate of change, which is actually incorrect. The angles change the slowest at the solstice and the fastest at the equinox.

Not quite. A analemma is used to correct a sun dial’s time to our accurate clock time. It is based on the Equation of Time if you want to get into the details. Have you ever noticed that when the sun reaches it’s highest position for the day, what is called local noon, the clocks don’t indicate that it is 12:00 pm? Except for the 4 days of the year when it actually does match.

(George Brooks) #117


Which part do you think is hypothetical, or without sources?

The whole reason the Winter Solstice is linked to Sol Invictus is because of the 3 day pause. This is not some post-modern revamping of ancient theology. This is the ancient theology… based on the 3 day pause at the extreme tips of the analemma!

The direction of south is along the analemma downward… because as the sun’s daily rise moves a degree… it is moving a degree closer and closer to the maximum southerly sunrise.

After the Winter Solstice concludes, the sun is now moving its daiily sunrise about one degree per day northerly … towards the Summer Solstice (which is, as you can see, at the height of the figure eight).

See the bottom marked “22.12” - - don’t you hate European calendar notations?!? That’s December 22nd.

And at the top, we have June 21. And at the intersection of the figure 8, we have April 15 and September 1 for the equinoxes.

Oh - - you asked me which priests. I am not a historian of ancient astronomy. I do not know which culture discovered what first. Egypt talks about 3 days in the underworld. And so does Babylon. Was the 3 day pause discovered before the invention of writing? I just don’t know those particular details.

(George Brooks) #118


I don’t believe your point and my point are at all mutually exclusive. I became a sun-dial enthusiast for about 2 months, and learned about the use of the analemma. The fact the analemma exists at all is because the net movement of the earth around the sun shifts the rising and setting point of the sun for every day.

I will be making an edit in the post above… I can see that something I wrote could be misconstrued, and I think I mis-stated something as well.

If you stay on the same latitude (a line parallel to the equator), I believe an analemma calculated for any spot on the same latitude should look identical.

But as you move north or south, the analemma will begin to twist and change. Every sundial has an analemma unique for the latitude in which it is installed.

Which leads me to ponder about a globe where they usually produce an analemma in the middle of an ocean. I would think there must be an assumed (or specified) location for where that analemma is applicable.

@Bill_II, have you encountered a discussion on that while you were reviewing analemmas?

(George Brooks) #119


Yep… I don’t know how they would tell the difference either. Maybe this is why some ancient civilizations vary by a day or 2, from what we think should be the exact date of the Solstices.

If your argument is that an ancient astronomer should have argued that there should be a 5 day or 6 day pause, hey, I’m with you.

I don’t know how they arrived at just the 3 day pause. But, amazingly, it is a 3 day pause once the Sun reaches its most southerly sunrise.

Pretty amazing that they got that right, aye?


Without an accurate clock ancient people would have no idea that the analemma even existed. Not to belabor the point, but the ancients didn’t have accurate clocks or accurate calendars.

I looked for and couldn’t find the book I have on constructing sun-dials. So I am working off of memory. The book included instructions on how to create an analemma to correct the sun-dial time.

We think about this in opposite ways. To me the analemma exists because the clocks we use record time with no regard for the time indicated by the sun. In other words, without a clock you would never see the analemma. The size and shape of the analemma is determined by the earth’s tilt and eccentricity.

I did a little Goggling but didn’t find anything concrete. I did notice in a few images that the way the analemma was drawn it appeared to just show when the sun was running ahead or behind mean time. Why they would want to put that on a globe I don’t know. My guess was that was a big empty spot on the globe and they wanted to fill it with something.

I would consider it the day before and the day after the most southerly sunrise. Or the 3 days before and the 3 days after. Or just 3 days around that general time. Probably all the same to them.