This long article explores a very strange possibility; that Classical tales such as the Labours of Hercules were not simply fantastic, heroic stories. Instead, they were Mnemonic codes, Method of Loci or Memory Palace stories that ancient elders used to remember complex, technologically advanced information.

A secret code

In 1882, Robert Hewitt Brown wrote an excellent book on Freemasonry entitled ‘Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy’. The book is a treasure-trove of fascinating information on Masonic understanding of astronomy, ancient history and the preservation of ancient information. It demonstrates that Freemasons know a lot of information about our ancient past and the knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians, Hebrews and Babylonians. Unfortunately for the rest of us, much of this information is only made available to people high up in the Masonic ranks. Thankfully, Brown’s book gives insights to some of this knowledge; much of which tallies well with ancient books such as the Hermetica, which itself is uncannily similar in spirit to the Tao Te Ching, but Brown goes further, into tantalising territory. On page 7 of Brown’s book, he writes:

‘The mythological stories, the wonderful adventures of the gods. These fables are most of them absurd enough if understood as real histories, but the allegorical key being given, many of them are found to contain profound and sublime astronomical truths. This key was religiously kept secret by the priests and philosophers, and was only imparted to those who were initiated into the mysteries. The profane and vulgar crowd were kept in darkness, and believed in and worshipped a real Hercules or Jupiter, whom they thought actually lived and performed all the exploits, and underwent all the transformations of the mythology.’

‘By these means the priests ruled the people with a despotic power. The fables of the mythology disclosed to them grand scientific truths, and to them only. The very stories themselves served to perpetuate those truths for the benefit of the initiated, and also formed an easy vehicle for their transmission. Books were not only rare and difficult of multiplication, but it is also probable that, in order that scientific knowledge might be concealed, it was considered unlawful to commit it to writing, the sacred hieroglyphs were employed. These were known only to the initiated; there was another set of written characters used by the common people.’

It’s an amazing idea, that the stories of Hercules are not just fanciful tales but instead are coded information, preserved by Ancient Egyptian high priests, that in fact describe ‘sublime astronomical truths’.

There is some generally-agreed information that supports this possibility. Firstly, we know about the origins of The Labours of Hercules, the most famous collection of Hercules’ adventures. They were supposedly originally written by the Ancient Greek scholar Paisandros of Rhodes. Unfortunately, none of his copies survived. Modern scholars also believe that Paisandros of Rhodes probably wasn’t the original author of the Labours. Instead, he probably lifted the stories from even earlier sources. We are therefore reading second-hand versions of what were possibly second, fourth or tenth-hand versions of the actual, original texts. This would indicate that the original version of the Labours of Hercules was very old indeed.

Secondly, we also know, based on texts by Pythagorus and Plato, and Diodorus Siculus’s history book, that much of Greek culture was actually taken from Ancient Egypt, as they were the Greeks’ cultural forebears. The Classical Greeks idolised the Ancient Egyptians and were forever trying to learn from them. If they were given the Hercules stories by the Ancient Egyptian high-priests, it’s also highly likely that the Greeks would have written them down exactly, out of reverence for their teachers.

There’s therefore a very good chance that the Greek writer Apollodorus’s version of the Labours of Hercules is very close to a version dictated by Ancient Egyptians high-priests. We can therefore study these stories with some confidence that if they did originally contain ‘allegorical keys’ created by Ancient Egyptian high-priests, those keys are still present. We also know another useful fact; the original stories, created by the priests, would have been designed to be remembered, rather than written down.

The first step to cracking the code would be to study one of the Labours of Hercules and check if it meets certain properties:

1) Does it seem to be a code rather than just a story?
2) Does its origins fit with a very ancient, Egyptian or Babylonian source?
3) Is it structured so that it can be accurately memorised?

Here is the Apollodorus version of the Tenth Labour of Hercules:

“As a tenth labour Hercules was ordered to fetch the kine (cattle) of Geryon from Erythia. Now Erythia was an island near the ocean; it is now called Gadira. This island was inhabited by Geryon, son of Chrysaor by Callirhoe, daughter of Ocean. He had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but parted in three from the flanks and thighs. He owned red kine, of which Eurytion was the herdsman and Orthus, the two-headed hound, begotten by Typhon on Echidna, was the watch-dog. So journeying through Europe to fetch the kine of Geryon Hercules destroyed many wild beasts and set foot in Libya, and proceeding to Tartessus he erected as tokens of his journey two pillars over against each other at the boundaries of Europe and Libya. But being heated by the Sun on his journey, he bent his bow at the god, who in admiration of his hardiness, gave him a golden goblet in which he crossed the ocean. And having reached Erythia he lodged on Mount Abas. However the dog, perceiving him, rushed at him; but he smote it with his club, and when the herdsman Eurytion came to the help of the dog, Hercules killed him also. But Menoetes, who was there pasturing the kine of Hades, reported to Geryon what had occurred, and he, coming up with Hercules beside the river Anthemus, as he was driving away the kine, joined battle with him and was shot dead. And Hercules, embarking the kine in the goblet and sailing across to Tartessus, gave back the goblet to the Sun.”

This is only the first half of the Tenth Labour of Hercules (the second half is even more long-winded) but it is enough to give us an idea of its structure and content. Firstly, the story isn’t very good as a story. It’s a mess of strange characters, each one mentioned briefly, with little action or description to bring them to life. The story is more like a shopping list than an engaging story. This is a shame if you wanted a fun tale but it’s also very revealing because it does fit the idea that the author was making a Method of Loci story.

The Memory Palace

The Method of Loci technique (also known as the Memory Palace technique) was allegedly invented by Simonides of Ceos, an Ancient Greek poet living in around 500 BC. Simonides supposedly developed the technique when he had the gruelling task of identifying, from memory, who had been crushed by a falling roof during a banquet that he had attended but had luckily escaped by leaving earlier in the evening. Simonides remembered everyone there by imagining their table placings in his mind.It’s a memorable explanation but it’s almost certainly an Ancient Greek urban myth. It is far more likely that the Method of Loci technique was used long before Simonides was even born.

Early Mediterranean civilisations were high on learning, but low on writing, due to the technical limitations of book production at that time. As a result, they would have been dominated by an oral tradition, in which learned people simply memorised the material, then passed it on orally to the next generation. Someone, early on in this culture, would have stumbled on the Method of Loci technique, refined it and then trained others in the craft. It would then have rapidly become a mainstay for scholars, orators and intellectuals before the Classical Greek Civilisation even began. The human brain has changed little in tens of thousands of years, and so it is logical to conclude that the Method of Loci was used very early on. Ancient Egyptian High Priests, revered for their mental abilities and knowledge, would almost certainly have used Method of Loci techniques to store large amounts of data in their heads.

There is evidence that the Ancient Egyptian high-priests were not the only priests using Method of Loci. For example, Julius Caesar mentions such a system being used by the Druids. In Chapter 14 of ‘De Bello Gallico’, Caesar writes:

‘The Druids do not go to war, nor pay tribute together with the rest; they have an exemption from military service and a dispensation in all matters. Induced by such great advantages, many embrace this profession of their own accord, and [many] are sent to it by their parents and relations. They are said there to learn by heart a great number of verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training twenty years. Nor do they regard it lawful to commit these to writing, though in almost all other matters, in their public and private transactions, they use Greek characters. That practice they seem to me to have adopted for two reasons; because they neither desire their doctrines to be divulged among the mass of the people, nor those who learn, to devote themselves the less to the efforts of memory, relying on writing; since it generally occurs to most men, that, in their dependence on writing, they relax their diligence in learning thoroughly, and their employment of the memory. They wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another, and they think that men by this tenet are in a great degree excited to valour, the fear of death being disregarded. They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.’

It’s clear, from Caesar’s writings, that the Druids had developed a belief system and approach to learning that was similar to the Ancient Egyptians. They had also developed beliefs about the mind and that soul that were similar to the Jain, Hinduism and other ancient religions. More specifically to this article, the Druids were using techniques to memorise large amounts of material.

In order to understand how the Method of Loci system works, let’s work through an example:

A person wants to develop their memory skills. To start with, they’re going to try to remember the following string of information; ‘red four, blue two, green five, pink three.’ It is only a short piece of data but there’s a good chance that that information will get jumbled in their head over time. This is because the form of the data is so dry. Our minds aren’t tuned to remembering numbers – we’re not robots. Instead, being imaginative animals, we’re much better at remembering distinct and memorable images. Therefore, it makes sense to use our liking for vivid images as a way to remember strings of data. If we turn the dry data into something memorable, a string of vivid images, using an agreed code, and then memorise that encoded version, we can remember it better. We can even work as a group on this. If everyone involved agrees on the code used to store the information, then they have a reliable method for memorising the data and then passing it on to each other. What’s more, as it’s a code only they know, they can keep the information secret, amongst themselves.

This is where the Method of Loci (or Memory Palace) story comes into play. Imagine that you’re in a place you’re familiar with, such as your house. This is very useful as you have strong, reliable images of that place. You’re now going to travel on an imaginary journey through your house. You’ll start your journey in your front room. You step into that room and you see a four-legged Red Dragon. You then walk to your kitchen and find, leaning against the stove, a two-legged Blue Pelican. You leave your kitchen and step into your garden and find a five-legged Green Frog on the lawn. Beyond it, by the gate, you see a three-legged Pink Princess. Travel on that walk several times until you can accurately recall those creatures and their location in your head. You should find that once you’ve done that, it’s very hard not to remember it, due to the familiarity of the locations and the vividness of the creatures. Memory champions use this technique to memorise entire packs of randomly-shuffled cards. With that in mind, let’s look again at the Tenth Labour of Hercules.

Battle amongst the stars

If we study the Tenth Labour again, described earlier, with the idea that it is an Ancient Greek Method of Loci story, it seems clear that it does match that style. It contains familiar geography and locations to anyone who travelled around the Mediterranean. It also contains wildly exotic creatures and it is a string of events. The next, big question becomes; if it is a Method of Loci story, what was the data that was being encoded? At first glance, this might seem an impossible task to solve, due to the age of the story and the deliberate desire of the Ancient Egyptian priests to keep their knowledge secret but we have a crib, a term used at the World War 2 Bletchley Park codebreaking facility. We have a way to guess what the encoders were encoding.

The trick for decoding the Labours of Hercules lies in the stars. The Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with the stars; they based much of their mythology and rituals around them. The Ancient Greeks, the cultural children of Egypt, also idolised the stars and they adopted many Egyptian practices with regard to the Heavens. One aspect they adopted was to use constellations that were a close match to the Egyptian constellations. It is in these constellations of stars, and the figures representing the constellations, where we can find the code to crack those Classical tales.

There is a constellation called Hercules in our Heavens but it’s worth remembering that Hercules was an archetypal hero and most specifically, that he was a hunter with a bow and a club. The constellation of Hercules does not contain a bow and a club but there is another constellation that does depict a hunter with a bow and a club; that is the constellation of Orion. There are several constellations in the skies around Orion. They are the constellations Canis Minor (the Little Dog), Canis Major (the Big Dog), Gemini (the Twins or Brothers), Taurus the Bull and Eridanus the River.

Knowledgeable readers may have already spotted that the Labours of Hercules involve characters including a large dog (Cerberus), two brothers (Geryon and Eurytion), a bull and a river. This could just be a coincidence, so it’s worth studying the connections in more detail. In order to be confident that the Tenth Labour of Hercules is a Method of Loci story connected to those constellations, we need to find a lot of connections.

Let’s look at Apollodorus’s version of story again:

“As a tenth labour Hercules was ordered to fetch the kine (cattle) of Geryon from Erythia. Now Erythia was an island near the ocean; it is now called Gadira. This island was inhabited by Geryon, son of Chrysaor by Callirhoe, daughter of Ocean. He had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but parted in three from the flanks and thighs. He owned red kine, of which Eurytion was the herdsman and Orthus, the two-headed hound, begotten by Typhon on Echidna, was the watch-dog. So journeying through Europe to fetch the kine of Geryon Hercules destroyed many wild beasts and set foot in Libya, and proceeding to Tartessus he erected as tokens of his journey two pillars over against each other at the boundaries of Europe and Libya. But being heated by the Sun on his journey, he bent his bow at the god, who in admiration of his hardiness, gave him a golden goblet in which he crossed the ocean. And having reached Erythia he lodged on Mount Abas. However the dog, perceiving him, rushed at him; but he smote it with his club, and when the herdsman Eurytion came to the help of the dog, Hercules killed him also. But Menoetes, who was there pasturing the kine of Hades, reported to Geryon what had occurred, and he, coming up with Hercules beside the river Anthemus, as he was driving away the kine, joined battle with him and was shot dead. And Hercules, embarking the kine in the goblet and sailing across to Tartessus, gave back the goblet to the Sun.”

If the Tenth Labour of Hercules is a Method of Loci story encoding information about the constellations in and around Orion, then we could guess that the brothers in the story, Eurytion and Geryon, represent Gemini, the twins or brothers. Their dog, Orthrus, is Canis Minor. If this is correct, then the properties of the stars of those constellations would match the properties of the characters.

The main star of the Gemini constellation is Castor. Castor is a very interesting star because it’s not actually a single star. To quote from the Wikipedia page, ‘Appearing to the naked eye as a single star, Castor was first recorded as a double star in 1718 by James Pound, but it may have been resolved into at least two sources of light by Cassini as early as 1678. ‘ After further efforts, and better telescopes, we now know that Castor is, in fact, three pairs of stars. The second star in the Gemini constellation is Pollux. Unlike Castor, Pollux is a single star. The main star in the Canis Minor system is the star Procyon, which is in fact a double-star or binary system.

It’s therefore fascinating to discover that Geryon, who seems to be representing the three-pair system of Castor, is a triple-paired man, as in having three pairs of arms and legs. His brother Eurytion, which represents the single-star-system Pollux, is a normal man. Their dog Orthrus, which seems to represent the binary system Procyon, is two-headed.

For anyone who might regard these connections as coincidental, it’s worth including another character in the Labours of Hercules at this point. Hercules eventually fights the three-headed dog Cerberus. Considering the importance of Cerberus, it’s reasonable to guess that he represents the constellation Canis Major (or Big Dog), whose main star is Sirius. It’s therefore equally fascinating to discover that the Sirius star system is definitely a binary system but many astronomers believe that it is actually a triple-star system, because of orbital anomalies of the two main stars.

If these stories are truly Method of Loci encodings of astral data, created by Ancient Egyptian high-priests, then we’re faced with an astonishing consequence. Somehow, the Ancient Egyptians knew that Castor was a triple-paired star-system, thousands of years ago, when we’ve only discovered that fact relatively recently with sophisticated telescopes. How on Earth could they have known that information? It seems that our ancient forebears somehow obtained knowledge that was far beyond their own level of technology. The most likely explanation for this is that they inherited the information from an earlier civilisation that disappeared. That earlier civilisation was very advanced, at least as advanced as we are now. This idea, of a very ancient but lost civilisation, of great technological ability, will crop up again and again in my articles. After years of research, it has become obvious to me that there did exist such a civilisation, and that it was destroyed at the end of the last ice-age. A few individual did survive the catastrophe, and were able to pass on at least some of their knowledge. Unfortunately, the groups who now possess that valuable information are keeping it to themselves. As Sir Francis Bacon once said, ‘knowledge is power’. They are keeping that knowledge in order to preserve their power.

But let’s continue with the subject of this article. We’ve already explored the idea that the Labours of Hercules contained encoded information about star systems. What other Classical Myths are actually encoded information about stars?

The Chimaera

One big clue to spotting an encoded story is to hunt for one with an extremely exotic creature. The bizarre form of Geryon in the Tenth Labour of Hercules (according to Apollodorus) – a man with three pairs of arms and legs – gave away the fact that that mythical story was a Method of Loci story, because bizarre creatures are both easy to remember and can act as encoded information. The weirder the creature, the more likely that we have a encoded story. Fortunately, there is a Greek myth with an extremely exotic creature; the story of the Chimaera.

Here’s Apollodorus’s version of the story (translated by J.G.Fraser):

“Bellerophon, son of Glaucus, son of Sisyphus, came to Proetus and was purified. And Stheneboea fell in love with him, and sent him proposals for a meeting; and when he rejected them, she told Proetus that Bellerophon had sent her a vicious proposal. Proetus believed her, and gave him a letter to take to Iobates, in which it was written that he was to kill Bellerophon. Having read the letter, Iobates ordered him to kill the Chimera, believing that he would be destroyed by the beast, for it was more than a match for many, let alone one; it had the fore part of a lion, the tail of a dragon, and its third head, the middle one, was that of a goat, through which it belched fire. And it devastated the country and harried the cattle; for it was a single creature with the power of three beasts. It is said, too, that this Chimera was bred by Amisodarus, as Homer also affirms, and that it was begotten by Typhon on Echidna, as Hesiod relates. So Bellerophon mounted his winged steed Pegasus, offspring of Medusa and Poseidon, and soaring on high shot down the Chimera from the height.”

The form of the story is very similar to the Tenth Labour of Hercules, mentioned in Part 1 of this article. It is a string of information, rather than an engaging story. In truth, the only dramatic action in the story is confined to the last sentence. It does seem to be at least based on another Method of Loci story. One worrying element of the story is that it can’t be a verbatim copy of an older, original tale, as Homer and Hesiod are mentioned, but there is at least some revealing content.

In Part 1 of this article, I showed that the Tenth Labour of Hercules was encoded information about the Ancient Greek constellations around Orion, and their main stars. Unfortunately, this direct connection isn’t possible with the Chimaera because the Ancient Greeks didn’t have a Chimaera constellation. This isn’t a deal-breaker, since we already know that the Ancient Greeks inherited the myths from the Ancient Egyptians, along with many of their constellations. The question becomes; did the Ancient Egyptians have a Chimaera constellation that morphed into something different for the Ancient Greeks?

To work out where this lost Chimaera constellation was positioned in our night sky, we can look for clues in the actual story of the Chimaera. In the story, Bellerophon attacks the Chimaera from his winged steed Pegasus ‘on high’ and shoots the creature down. We can therefore assume that the Chimaera constellation is beneath the constellation Pegasus. In addition, it’s probably in the general direction of Pegasus’s pointing head.

Below is a screenshot from the excellent, and free, Stellarium astronomy program:

As we can see in the picture, Pegasus, the winged horse, is on the left, upside down (from our viewpoint). Its neck is pointing downwards and its head faces a group of constellations consisting of Cygnus (The Swan), Lyra (the Lyre, which is dominated by the bright star Vega) and on the right, the large constellation Draco (the dragon). If the Chimaera constellation did once exist, it would logically be somewhere in that group of constellations. We can flip the image over and illustrate the constellations that may be the site of the now-lost Chimaera constellation:

The next step is to go further back than Ancient Greece and study the constellations created by the Egyptian and Babylonian civilisations, who were founded long before Ancient Greece. If the Greek myths were handed down, encoded stories of star information, then there’s a good chance they actually refer to Egyptians and/or Babylonian constellations, as those were the elder civilisations. The fact that some encoded myths, when deciphered, do work with Greek constellations may simply be because the Greeks copied those constellations directly from Egyptian and/or Babylonian constellations.

Luckily, we have a detailed copy of the Egyptian constellations because of the Dendera Zodiac, the famous Egyptian ceiling frieze found in a temple in Dendera, Egypt (and hacked out of that ceiling by Frenchmen, before being taken to Paris). Here is a clear, illustrated version of it:

We also know a lot about the Babylonian zodiac, thanks to excellent work by modern scholars. For example, in Gavin White‘s extremely useful book ‘Babylonian Star Lore’, which is still in print and available on Amazon, Gavin describes the Babylonian star constellations in detail, including their history and what each one signified. Hopefully he doesn’t mind me including a copy of his Babylonian constellation map below, since I am endorsing his book:

It’s worth noting that the two zodiacs are very similar to each other but have significant differences to the Greek constellations. Let’s now add an old, out-of-copyright diagram of the Greek constellations:

We can see that several Greek constellations have survived intact from the older Egyptian/Babylonian zodiacs, albeit with a change of name. The Babylonian Great One became the Greek constellation Aquarius, the Goatfish became Capricorn, Pabilsag became Sagittarius and so on. We therefore have enough connections to confidently focus in on the area of the sky that we’re interested in and know that we can match the Greek constellations with the earlier Babylonian ones.

Let’s examine again the area that Pegasus’s head points to, which contains the Greek constellations of the Lyre, Cygnus and Draco. If we overlay the Greek constellations on to the Babylonian constellations, by matching the star patterns, we discover that they cover what was once the Babylonian Panther constellation. It isn’t a complete match because the Panther doesn’t cover the whole of Lyre, Cygnus and Draco. To get around this, we can create a hybrid constellation of the Panther and parts of the Lyre, Cygnus and Draco. We then get a weird creature whose tail becomes Draco, the dragon, whose body is the Babylonian Panther and who sprouts an extra head, corresponding to the Babylonian She-Goat constellation, which later became the Greek Lyre constellation, dominated by the star Vega. Here’s an illustration of the resulting hybrid constellation, with the Draco-dragon back end and the Vega She-Goat head:

This creature would have been facing Pegasus. In addition, the small constellation Sagitta, the Arrow, would have been flying past its head. Hopefully, it’s clear that this constellation is a perfect match for the Chimaera. To quote from the myth: ‘it had the fore part of a lion, the tail of a dragon, and its third head, the middle one, was that of a goat, through which it belched fire.’ It’s been a convoluted process, creating the Chimaera, but it is logical.

Now that the Chimaera constellation has been reconstructed, we can begin to decipher what the myth of Bellerophon really means. In Part 1, I did my best to show that the myth of the Tenth Labour of Hercules contained encoded information about star systems around Orion, in particular Gemini and Canis Minor. By comparison, the Chimaera story doesn’t seem to be using the same code. Instead of talking about figures with extra limbs, it talks about dragons (which traditionally belched fire) and a goat-head, belching fire. What was the meaning behind this? What was the meaning of the ‘fire-belching’ code?

Guardian of the Underworld

Fortunately, to help decode ‘fire-belching’, we have another Greek myth that also talks about a bizarre creature with a dragon tail. This was Cerberus, the famous Hound of Hell. Here is a translation of the beginning of Apollodorus’s Twelth Labour of Hercules:

‘A twelfth labour imposed on Hercules was to bring Cerberus from Hades.Now this Cerberus had three heads of dogs, the tail of a dragon, and on his back the heads of all sorts of snakes.’

As explained in Part 1 of this article, Cerberus was almost certainly connected with the Greek constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog, the Greek constellation that sits to the bottom right of Orion the Hunter. The main star of Canis Major is Sirius, the Dog Star. Cerberus, according to myth, was a guardian of the Underworld. By interesting coincidence, according to Gavin White’s book on Babylonian star lore, the Panther was also a beast closely associated with the realm of the dead and the afterlife. It was the sacred beast of Nergal, the Babylonian lord of the dead, and acted as a guardian to the entrance to the underworld.

We therefore have two constellations depicting a very important mythical creature, one that was violent, dangerous and associated with the underworld and the realm of the dead. Both of these creatures were key players in a mythical story. In addition, each one possessed a tail that was a dragon, a creature that traditionally belched fire from its mouth. The Chimaera constellation also had a goat-star head that belched fire. It would seem, if these myths were Method of Loci encoded tales, that the ancient seers of the Mediterranean and Near East very much wanted to remember that certain stars were fire-belching stars. Specifically, Thuban (the tail of the Chimaera), Vega (the goat-head) and Sirius (the Dog Star) were fire-belchers. Some or all of these stars also seem to have been associated with gates to the underworld. Clearly, these stars were very important to those ancient civilisations.

To explain why the Ancients thought Thuban, Vega and Sirius were fire-belchers, we need to delve into some very strange evidence from ancient history. We also need to draw upon the latest astronomical information. These matters are covered in a related article, Fiery Sirius, which explains how the star Sirius seems to have become fiery red during the first millennium BC, because someone on a planet in the Sirius star-system fired a beam of light at Earth. The idea that someone would do such a thing – fire a beam of light at another star – is supported, strangely enough, here on Earth. That is explained in the Giza Beam article on this website, which explains how Thuban became a ‘dragon star’. Once you’ve read those articles, we can move on to another myth and what it seems to reveal about the stars in our heavens.

Centaurs and a Boar

It’s time to study another Classical Myth. This one is the fourth Labour of Hercules, the Erymanthian Boar, in which Hercules must bring back a wild boar that has terrorised the country. Here is an abridged translation of the Apollodorus version of the fourth Labour. There’s no need to read the entire text, we just need to study it with the idea that it is a Method of Loci story:

“As a fourth labour he [Eurystheus] ordered him [Hercules] to bring the Erymanthian Boar alive; now that animal ravaged Psophis, sallying from a mountain which they call Erymanthus. So passing through Pholoe he [Hercules] was entertained by the centaur Pholus, a son of Silenus by a Melian nymph. He set roast meat before Hercules, while he himself ate his meat raw. When Hercules called for wine, he said he feared to open the jar that belonged to the centaurs in common. But Hercules, bidding him be of good courage, opened it, and not long afterwards, scenting the smell, the centaurs arrived at the cave of Pholus, armed with rocks and firs. The first who dared to enter, Anchius and Agrius, were repelled by Hercules with a shower of brands, and the rest of them he shot and pursued as far as Malea, Thence they took refuge with Chiron, who, driven by the Lapiths from Mount Pelion, took up his abode at Malea. As the centaurs cowered about Chiron, Hercules shot an arrow at them, which passing through the arm of Elatus, stuck in the knee of Chiron. Distressed at this, Hercules ran up to him, drew out the shaft, and applied a medicine that Chiron gave him. But the hurt proved incurable, Chiron retired to the cave and there he wished to die, but he could not, for he was immortal. However, Prometheus offered himself to Zeus to be immortal in his stead, and so Chiron died. But Pholus, drawing the arrow from a corpse, wondered that so little a thing could kill such big fellows; howbeit, it slipped from his hand and lighting on his foot killed him on the spot. So when Hercules returned to Pholoe, he beheld Pholus dead; and he buried him and proceeded to the boar-hunt. And when he had chased the boar with shouts from a certain thicket, he drove the exhausted animal into deep snow, trapped it, and brought it to Mycenae.”

When reading the above myth, the strange style of the Labours comes to the fore again. This Labour is supposed to be about the capture of a boar but almost the whole story is about centaurs. The boar hunt is almost an afterthought. Why isn’t this Labour called ‘Hercules defeats the centaurs’? It seems that the author of the fourth Labour actually wanted to talk about centaurs. To decipher this oddity, we can remember what happened with the Chimaera; that myth only worked once we’d accepted that the Greek Constellations weren’t the original constellations that these myths were connected to. In the same way, to decipher the Fourth Labour of Hercules, we need to study the differences between the Greek centaur constellations and the older, Egyptian and Babylonian constellations to discover the true connection. To do this, we need to compare the Egyptian and Babylonian constellations, shown above, with the modern Greek constellations, shown here in a screenshot from the excellent Stellarium astronomy app:

We can see that the Greek Centaurus constellation, in the Stellarium picture, is below Scorpio, at around eight-o-clock. It corresponds with the Egyptian constellation of a animal holding a horn in its mouth, with its forelegs on a symbol of a watery abyss. That in turn corresponds with the Babylonian Wild Boar constellation. Gavin White, in his book ‘Babylonian Star-Lore’, puts forward the idea that this Dendera zodiac figure was an altered depiction of the Babylonian ‘Wild Boar’ constellation, and that its horn was originally the boar’s tusk. Both creatures stand beside a square, that the Babylonians called ‘the abyss’; a cold and empty area of the sky. This connects with the Fourth Labour, since Hercules drives the boar into deep snow to trap it. If this is correct, then we have an explanation for why the Fourth Labour was officially about a boar, but ended up talking about centaurs, because its source material had been change from one to the other.

Let’s return to the Fourth Labour of Hercules and look for encoded content that might reveal some actual information about stars. In amongst the stream of odd information, two sentences sticks out:

As the centaurs cowered about Chiron, Hercules shot an arrow at them, which passing through the arm of Elatus, stuck in the knee of Chiron.

Pholus, drawing the arrow from a corpse, wondered that so little a thing could kill such big fellows; howbeit, it slipped from his hand and lighting on his foot killed him on the spot.

The arrow in this story was very important; it was almost the main character. The author made some effort to specify exactly where this arrow travelled and, in particular, specified a fired path that was hard to believe for a normal, dramatic tale. Is this because the author was encoding an actual celestial journey? To test this hypothesis, we can make a good guess as to which constellations correspond to the characters in this scene. Hercules can be the constellation of Hercules (which makes sense!) and Chiron, the most important centaur in myth, can be the most prominent centaur in the sky, Sagittarius. We can then use Stellarium to draw a line between Hercules’ head and the knee of Sagittarius. By interesting coincidence, this line does runs through the arm of another figure, Ophiuchus and a particular star, Gamma Ophiuchi. The star at the end of this path would correspond one of the front knees of Sagittarius. Interestingly, there is a very important star in Sagittarius called Rukbat Al Rami, which scholars believe translates from the Arabic as the Knee of the Archer. It is Alpha Sagittarii, the main star of the Sagittarius constellation. Like Alpha Draconis, even though Rukbat Al Rami isn’t the most prominent star in Sagittarius, it has nevertheless been designated as its main star.

Pholus was the other centaur in the story but not as famous as Chiron. He is therefore likely to correspond to the Centaurus constellation. Once again, by strange coincidence, the main star of the Centaurus system, Alpha Centauri, was known as Rijl al-Qanṭūris, or ‘the foot of the centaur’. Alpha Centauri is in fact a triple-star system that includes the star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun.

We therefore have a list of stars that seem to have been specifically mentioned in Greek Myths; Thuban, Sirius, Vega, Gamma Ophiuchi and Alpha Centaurus. These stars are all the main stars of their constellations, even though a few of them aren’t the brightest stars in their constellations, which is odd all by itself. Why would a star of lesser brightness be designated as the main star of its constellation? It would seem that someone in antiquity knew that that lesser star was of critical importance.

The next step, now that we have a list of these important stars, is to see what we know about them physically. What does our latest astronomy and astrophysics research say about these stars? This is where the plot thickens.

Weird stars

Thuban, Sirius, Vega, Gamma Ophiuchi and Alpha Centaurus are all relatively near our solar system. Some of them are very close and all of them are weird. In other words, they are behaving anomalously, according to our current understanding of astrophysics, because they are all emitting mysterious excesses of either infra-red light, or x-rays or both.

Alpha Draconis, known as Thuban, which means ‘large snake’ in Arabic, is a binary system. It is not the brightest star-system in the Draconis constellation but is nevertheless the alpha star. It is similar in composition to Vega.

Sirius is a blue-white giant star, 6 light-years from Earth. A mysterious infra-red excess id coming from its smaller, companion, white-dwarf star, Sirius B.

Alpha Sagittarii, also known as Rukbat Al Rami, is 182 light-years from Earth. It is a blue, Class B dwarf star. It is not the brightest star in the Sagittarius constellation but is nevertheless the alpha star. It is showing mysterious infra-red excess and X-ray excess.

Gamma Ophiuchi, also known as Muliphen, is 95 light-years from Earth. It is an A-type, main sequence star. It is showing mysterious infra-red excess.

Alpha Centauri is a triple star-system, approximately 4 light-years from Earth. The main pair of stars is showing an odd infra-red excess and Alpha Centauri B is showing an x-ray excess.

Vega (Alpha Lyrae) is younger than our sun but twice as massive. It is showing a mysterious infra-red excess. This is so prominent that stars with an infra-red excess are often referred to as Vega-like stars.

It is an odd coincidence that five of these six stars show infra-red excess. Astrophysicists have concluded that some stars show an excess of infra-red radiation, the same radiation that we all give off when we we’re warm, because the star-system has a debris-disk. In other words, as shown in the picture, there is a ring of boulders/dust etc around the star. This mass of dirt and dust absorbs the star’s light, then re-emits it in all directions as infra-red radiation. We detect that infra-red radiation, hence we see an infra-red excess from the star. This is clear and plausible explanation for the anomalous energy but it’s only a guess. In truth, an infra-red excess, coming from a star could exist for several possible reason

  1. The star does has a debris disk.
  2. The star is surrounded by artificial objects of great size or number.
  3. Our official understanding of stars is wrong.

If we continue with the assumption that standard understanding of stars is mostly correct, then how do we choose between options 1 and 2? How can we tell if that absorption and re-emittance is natural or man-made? One way to work this out would be to see if the objects move or disappear. A natural debris disk would not change for millennia, unless the star went nova or collided with another star. By comparison, an artificial disk or a set of orbiting man-made objects could move. They might be there one year and the next year, they’d be gone.

Oddly enough, this is exactly what seems to have happened around the star TYC 8241 2652. It lies 450 light-years away in the Constellation Centaurus, the same part of the sky as Alpha Centauri. It is a younger version of our sun. To quote from this space.com article, entitled Vanishing Dust Belt Around Star Baffles Scientists:

Only a few years ago, the space around the star TYC 8241 2652 1 was filled with dust and gas, but recent observations show the region — an ideal spot for alien planets to form — has all but vanished. “It’s like the classic magician’s trick: Now you see it, now you don’t,” principal investigator Carl Melis of the University of California, San Diego said in a statement. “Only in this case, we’re talking about enough dust to fill an inner solar system, and it really is gone!” The disk around the star TYC 8241 2652 1 was discovered in 1983 and remained relatively constant for 2 1/2 decades. Scientists estimated that 1,000 trillion grains of dust — the equivalent of all the sand on the beaches of Earth — circled this younger version of our sun. But in 2009, things changed. Observations by the Gemini South telescope in Chile and several other instruments found that the infrared light emitted by the dust had dropped by more than half. In subsequent studies, the amount of dust around the star had all but vanished, dropping by a factor of nearly 30 in two years. “The dust disappearance at TYC 8241 2652 1 was so bizarre and so quick, initially I figured that our observations must simply be in error in some strange way,” said study co-author Ben Zuckerman of the University of California, Los Angeles.

As the scientists in the article state, there’s no logical, natural reason to explain a rapid disappearance of a debris-disk around a star. Any natural process that made that debris disk disappear would be accompanied by other signs, such as the sun flaring. It would seem that, at least in the case of TYC 8241 2652, an artificial source of the infra-red excess makes more sense.

Summing Up

The Classical Greek myths, when interpreted as Method of Loci or Memory Palace stories, seem to show that our ancient civilisations had advanced knowledge of star systems, far more than they should have known, given their level of technological development. There are also tantalising hints that these star-systems might be inhabited, the cause of their anomalous emissions.

The quest to discover more information, using these techniques, is very open-ended. If we could work out the entire coding lexicon of these myths, we might be able to cross-refer them with each other and thereby find out more information about star-systems, but it’s a tough task. I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who does their own research into this subject, and anything new that they discover. For example, if anyone who can read the original Greek versions of these myths, they could have a head start in spotting the codes. Hopefully, in the future, we can find out more.