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An Irish Zodiac Preserved in a Library at Basel - page 2

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The Scorpion, which follows, is a fanciful figure with two snake-like heads having forked tongues; these heads seem to represent the claws shown in some older drawings. Sagittarius is drawn more like the Manticora of the Bestiary than a Centaur; he has a human head, but no arms, and has the unusual feature of cloven hoofs. The bow is not indicated, unless possibly by the curved line which sweeps around from the chin to the hind foot. The Goat was, of course, well known to the artist, and is represented in the usual way, the fore and hind quarters being covered with extra long hair. Aquarius is also a curious figure; he seems to be attired in a manner suitable for entering the water, and he carries a non-descript object, presumably a water sprinkler, but suggesting more than anything else the bow for playing some form of primitive musical instrument (or perhaps the stringed instrument itself - maybe a crude representation of a lyre or harp - Ed.). Beside him are inscribed the words Leprosus Lunaris, meaning literally Lunar Leper but Lunaris is found in Lower Latin with the meaning of field labourer; they may correspond to the other enigmatical phrases which follow the predictions in the central compartments, and may be placed here owing to lack of space.

For the sign Pisces there is but one fish, in this agreeing with the ancient Babylonian sign; the latter was single and named 'The Fish of Ea'. Aries and Taurus are of the ordinary form, though very wooden in appearance. The Twins wear kilts and walk one behind the other. The Crab and the Lion are placed so close together that there is no room for a separating line as in the other cases. The Crab is shown in the same way as the Scorpion, except for the tail, and the Lion is, as usual, distinguished by the mane, the large claws, and the tail raised over the back. The Virgin has a long plait of hair, and carries an immense ear of corn surmounted by a cross. Various words have been written beside the signs'; these words, when reduced to order form a kind of table as given below. In this table, several mistakes and omissions occur, and have been noted. [Comment]

Table of Correlations
Number Sign Tribe Apostle Ruler Month
Ho.I Libra Simeon Andrew Orcus September
Ho.II Scorpio Reuben Peter Chronus October
Ho.III [Sagittarius] Benjamin Paul [..........] [November]
Ho.IIII Capricorn Joseph Matthew* Iperion December
Ho.V Aquarius Asher Matthew* Crius January
Ho.VI Pisces Gad Thaddeus Coeus February
Ho.VII Aries Naphtali [John] Occianus March
Ho.VIII Taurus [Dan] James* Mercurius April
Ho.IX [Gemini] Zebulon Thomas Saturnus May
Ho.X Cancer Issachar Bartholomew Iovis June
Ho.XI Leo Judah Philip Pluton July
Ho.XII Virgo Levi James* Neoptunus August

Along the inner edge of the circular band containing the signs are marked the Ho[ra]I, II etc, and along the outer edge the names of the Twelve Tribes and of the Apostles. Amongst the Apostles, S.Paul is included and S.Simon omitted - this is frequently done. Amongst the Tribes, Joseph and Levi are given instead of the usual Ephraim and Manasseh. In Hours I and 11, the circle comes near the actual edge of the parchment, and the names of one tribe and of one apostle are written inside. In Hours VII and VlII, the same thing occurs, but the scribe has forgotten to insert the names. He has also forgotten the name of the sign Gemini and the name and particulars of Sagittarius. The names of the sign, of the month in which the sun passes through it, and of the Mythological Ruler or lnfluence which dominates the sign, are also inserted and are shown in the table.

The central part of the diagram contains predictions of what is likely to happen in various circumstances under each sign, and are translated as far as possible below. Some portions seem to be corrupt and to have no meaning, others may be intended to mystify the ignorant. Perhaps the scribe may have been unable to read or to understand some words in the original from which he copied.

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Comment: I have filled in some of the gaps in the table as presented in the original, based on common sense. For example, it is obvious that November follows October, while 'Dan' is the missing Tribe of Israel. The additions are in square brackets. The asterisks in the apostle column indicate that no distinction is made between the two James' or Matthew and Mathias in the zodiac graphic. It is an interesting that Pluto (Pluton) and Neptune (Neoptunus) should feature in the list, given that the discovery of the planets that now bear those names didn't happen for over 1000 years after the creation of the manuscript in question. Fred Gettings' Dictionary of Astrology (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1985) includes a table that relates the twelve Tribes of Israel with the Zodiac signs as mentioned in several of many different available sources. It is clear that there is no definitive list, and indeed, the one above does not conform to any mentioned in that book.