Correction to s-f-s #12b/c – with thanks

[ 3/08/2015 – broken link fixed, thanks Jelke]

In the post referenced above, I wrote:

As Schiaparelli pointed out in 1906, schemes by which the twelve tribes of Israel are correlated with the 12 constellations of the Roman zodiac can have no very ancient roots. Only six constellations are certainly mentioned in the whole corpus of Jewish law and canonical texts and, naturally enough, they contain no mention whatever of the Romans’ zodiac.

Schiaparelli attributes such ideas to Christian authors, writing after the thirteenth century, and indeed most lived after the fifteenth.  For the later systems, obviously inapplicable here, you might like David Godwin’s paper in the Llewellyn Journal, though his treatment is focused on astrology rather than the calendar ..

In our case, I do think Sagittarius was being associated with the Jews in fifteenth century Germany, [using ideas] derived from Latins’ interpretations of the Biblical texts but that can wait for a later post.

A reader has kindly directed me to a manuscript now in Basel, in which an Irish zodiac has been bound. Inscriptions there do make such a correlation, and the manuscript fairly certainly pre-dates ours.

The Zodiac itself relates, in my opinion, to the genre of rune calendars which passed back and forth between England, Ireland and Scandinavia, and to which I’ve referred in any earlier post surveying fold-outs in European works (here).

Of particular interest, for me, is also the close connection between depiction of Sagittarius in that zodiac and the “ullr” on the Böksten stone. I mention the latter in a post already written and due to appear early next month. Here is the illustration from that post, as preview:

Ullr hat 11thC

I won’t have time to look at this Irish zodiac more closely for a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve written to Basle, asking bibliographic details of the manuscript, and readers interested can refer in the meantime – and again, my thanks to that generous reader and friend – to a website where Bill Sheeran reproduces an image with his article, ‘Irish Zodiac Preserved in Basle’.  The tribe/constellation correspondences are given on the second page, here. The table makes no reference to the tribe of Manasseh. Sheeran mentions that he has edited and corrected the original in places.

His online article follows one originally published in 1994, which in turn follows one which Henry S. Crawford published in 1925.

On Sheehan’s current web-page, the Prologue reads:

In 1992 I was sent a photocopy of an article published in 1925 in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (Vol.LV pp.130-135). It was entitled ‘Notes on the Irish Zodiac Preserved in the Library at Basel’, and was written by Henry S. Crawford, the Vice President of the J.R.S.A.I.. I re-published it as an edited version in Réalta (the Irish Astrological Association journal) in 1994 (vol.1 no.3 pp 20-25). The main editing act was to leave out the Latin transcriptions of the contents in the centre of the zodiac, and only use the English translations.


Postscript: The archer figure on the Böksten stone is said to be “Ullr” in most commentaries. The stone dates to the eleventh century. For a number of reasons, I should date the original form for that Irish zodiac (not its reproduction in the medieval manuscript) to not much later than the fifth or sixth centuries.  Forgive me if I don’t stop now to explain why.



  1. In Crawford’s article (available through JSTOR) the reference for the Basel manuscript is given as FF.III.15.a but before using it, I’d like to check the current listing with Basel. Manuscripts change hands, and listings, and this may have done so over the last 90 years, too. 🙂


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