The Galactic Spiral
Gazing into the heart of a spiral galaxy, we sense a familiar path, a
journey taken long ago, resonating from another lifetime perhaps. We are
awed by the vibrant colors that the Hubble space telescope beams back.
Despite the high-tech clarity of these images, a primordial urgency rises to
greet us. If we stare long enough, the pinwheel of stars entrances our
sensibilities until we enter a golden realm of déjà vu, traveling back to
the ultimate Source. It is the Tibetan mandala, the
Navaho sand painting,
and Dante's Mystic Rose all rolled into one.
Our own Milky Way drifts through space like a bioluminescent starfish.
Technically called a barred spiral galaxy, it is estimated to be over
100,000 light-years across and 1000 light-years thick at the outer edges.
The elegant theories of modern astronomers place a mysterious
black hole at
the center of most galaxies, including our own. As the ultimate
manifestation of the devouring Hindu goddess Kali (Sanskrit for "black"),
nothing escapes this juggernaut's "event horizon," or rim-- analogous to
Kali's necklace of skulls.
Suns and planets, comets, galactic dust, gravity,
even light-- all are subject to its voracious attraction. To the Maya this
dark heart was known as Hunab K'u, the Only Giver of Movement and Measure,
represented by the stepped fret or spiral.
Located upon the star road of
the Milky Way in the direction between the zodiac constellations of
Sagittarius and Scorpius, our own Great Mystery beckons.
Located from our perspective near Alkaid
(the tip of the handle of the Big Dipper)
Photo courtesy of NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute
Merely one among incomprehensibly vast multitudes, the solar system where we
live is poised on the inner edge of a sidereal arc, a dozen or so of which
form our celestial spiral. This local arc is known as the Orion Arm.
The Earth Spiral
Double-spiral design on ceramic bowl.
Serrated edge represents clouds.
Four-mile Ruin, Arizona c. A.D. 1380
Jesse Walter Fewkes, Twenty-second Annual Report
Bureau of American Ethnology, 1900-1901
Many examples of the painted spiral exist in ancestral puebloan pottery from
the American Southwest. In particular, the whirlpool or double-spiral motif
represents the "gate of Masau's house."
One of these gates is located near
the Sipapuni at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the portal through which the
3 emerged from the past
Third World to the present Fourth World.
The Hopi periodically journey to this sacred area to gather ritualistic
Therefore, one of their names for the Grand Canyon is Öngtupqa,
literally "Salt Canyon." Masau'u (also spelled
Masau or Masaw) is the Hopi
god of war, death, fire, the Underworld, and the earth, but he is also god
He was present when the Hisatsinom emerged upon the
surface of the earth and began to make their migrations; he was there again
when they finished them after many centuries. With his dibble stick and sack
of seeds, Masau'u is also the humble agrarian deity who lives in balance
with the earth, providing a paradigm of purity and simplicity. It is Masau'u
with whom the Hopi established their divine Covenant.
On a naturalistic level the spiral represents water, an indispensable
element, especially for a desert existence. The presence of a spiral petroglyph (in Hopi known as potave'yta) can mean
that a water source is or was nearby. One of the major Hopi shrines is
called Potavetaka (literally, "spiral nest"), or
Point Sublime on the north
rim of the Grand Canyon.
Here again we see the spiral motif --an icon of
passage or transcendence-- associated with the canyon that the Hopi consider
their Place of Emergence. In addition to water, the spiral can refer to the
whirlwind or "dust devil," a sometimes malevolently destructive force in
nature. On the other hand, whirlwinds frequently precede rain, so they can
be viewed as propitious.
In rock art the spiral connotes migration across the surface of the earth,
especially if it is adjacent to footprints carved in the stone. In this
context a spiral signifies the number of rounds, or pasos
4, a clan made as
it journeyed though the centuries toward its ultimate goal of the sacred
Center of the World, what the Hopi call Tuuwanasavi, namely the
While a Muslim's circumambulation of the Kaba in the holy city of
Mecca may take a dozen hours, the Hisatsinom/Hopi circumambulatory migration
around their axis mundi took a dozen generations, but probably many more.
During this time the Ancient Ones built pueblo villages, lived there for a
number of generations, then moved on when Masau'u instructed them to do so.
Stylized spiral petroglyph with "pueblo" symbol at the center.
Near Homol'ovi Ruins State Park, Arizona.
Petroglyph of lightning above spiral at Tsankawi Mesa, New Mexico.
Drawing by Dawn Senior
In general, the spiral found in both rock art and ceramics may simply
connote motion, with a clockwise spiral denoting ascension and a
counterclockwise spiral denoting descension.
5 (Was it not
Jung who stated
that clockwise motion represents the conscious, while anticlockwise motion
signals the unconscious?) According to author Ani Bealaura, the spiral is
manifested in the upper and middle worlds in a direction opposite to that of
"The right hand, deocil, or clockwise motion in Celtic
belief represents the emerging, growing, material manifestation of energy.
This is the direction in which one would cast the circle of protection and
send energy into the environment. It is also used to banish unwanted
energies. The left hand, widdershin, or counter clockwise motion represents
the inward turn and to draw energy into material manifestation. It is the
principle of grounding energy. It is also used to take the inner journey of
gaining insight and enlightenment, and takes one to the 'underworld' or
'dreamtime'. It is also related to seeking Cerridwen's Cauldron of
The mythological poet Robert Graves claims that the Celtic
god Bran (the Greek Cronos and the Roman Saturn, whom we have identified
with the Hopi Masau'u) was associated with the alder, whose buds are set in
a spiral pattern.
This, he says, is "a token of resurrection.
7. Graves also
recalls the Celtic designation for the megalithic site of Newgrange in
Ireland as the Spiral Castle. "In front of the doorway of New Grange there
is a broad slab carved with spirals, which forms part of the stone henge.
The spirals are double ones: follow the lines with your finger from outside
to inside and when you reach the centre, there is the head of another spiral
coiled in the reverse direction to take you out of the maze again. So the
pattern typifies death and rebirth..."
John Frayne, an artisan of Celtic jewelry, states that spiral of
opposing directions refer to solstice suns: "A loosely wound,
anti-clockwise spiral represented the large summer sun. A tightly
wound, clockwise spiral represented their shrinking winter sun."
One counterclockwise spiral petroglyph located at
constellation, due to its relative position to
other images on the rock panel. In effect, it forms part of an ancient star
map of stone. But like many spiral petroglyphs across the Southwest,
including the famous one at Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon
10, this spiral is
first and foremost a solstice marker.
At noon on the first day of summer, a
small triangle of light precisely intersects the center of the spiral,
verifying for agricultural and ceremonial purposes the longest day of the
year. If one stumbles across a spiral petroglyph, there is a good chance
that it functioned as well as a boundary marker, helping the Hisatsinom to
make geodetic sense of this expansive and starkly beautiful desert
Noon on summer solstice,
triangle of light enters spiral.
The spirals woven into the plaques made by Hopi women (primarily those of
Second Mesa) symbolize the path we take in life's journey, and the
adversities we face along the way. From Techqua Ikachi Newsletter, # 21:
Spiral petroglyph at the V-Bar-V Ranch, Verde Valley, Arizona.
This tight spiral is reminiscent of the coiled plaques that the Hopi weave
from yucca fibers.
"This is a coil basket symbolizing the road of life. It is called "Boo-da",
meaning some great test which we will experience during our journey. Hopi
tradition says we started our travel from the center or beginning of life,
when life was perfect. But soon we began to face new obstacles. Small groups
of ambitious minded men wanted to change their ways away from the original
path. There were only small groups at first, but with time they increased to
great numbers. Those who wanted to keep to their original ways became fewer
Since mankind has lost peace with one another through the
conflict because of the new ways, the Great Spirit, the Great Creator has
punished the people in many ways. Through all of this there was always a
small group who survived to keep the original ways of life alive. This small
group are those who adhere to the laws of the Creator, who keep the
spiritual path open, out from the circle of evil. According to our
knowledge, we are not quite out of the circle. The men with ambitious minds
will decrease, while the people of good hearts, who live in harmony with the
earth, we will increase until the earth is rid of evil. If the Hopi are
right, this will be accomplished and the earth will bloom again. The
spiritual door is open, why not join the righteous people?"
Is it merely a coincidence that this Hopi term is a homonym for
primary figure in one of the world's great religions? We are reminded of the
Dhammapada, the spiritual path taken by followers of the Enlightened One,
and of the Noble Eightfold Path:
1. right understanding
2. right purpose
4. right conduct
5. right vocation.
6. right effort
8. right concentration.
Those who follow these precepts may in
Hopi terms be the ones "...who adhere to the laws of the
Creator, who keep
the spiritual path open..." In addition, the "circle of evil" is reminiscent
of the transmigratory Wheel of Life.
On a more psychospiritual level the spiral represents a gateway between
worlds or dimensions. It is the doorway through which the
shaman begins his
or her ecstatic quest from the physical to the spiritual plane. (Note: The
word spiral comes from the Latin spira, "coil," while the term
derived from the Latin spirare, "to breathe.") In a ritualistic trance the
shaman's "breath-body" searches the interstices of the spirit world for a
specific cure or a personal vision to bring back to the tribe. Thus, the
spiral functions as a portal or gateway from the mundane to the eternal
realms. The Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus calls these respective states the
tonal and the nagual, although it is much more complex than this simple
12 Anyone well versed in the techniques of non-ordinary reality,
however, can gain access to the latter, as we have seen in the tutelage of
The morphology of the spiral is also manifested in the "vortex" areas
located in many spots around the globe-- for instance, those in the Sedona,
Arizona region. In Terravision: A Traveler's Guide to the Living Planet
Earth, Page Bryant defines the term:
"A vortex is a mass of energy that
moves in a rotary or whirling motion, causing a depression or vacuum at the
center.... These powerful eddies of pure Earth power manifest as spiral-like
coagulations of energy that are either electric, magnetic, or
electromagnetic qualities of life force."
The vortices can be likened to
various acupuncture points upon the etheric body of the Earth. An electric
(yang) vortex --Bell Rock and Airport Mesa, for instance-- energizes and
enlivens the body and the mind, creating or rejuvenating a sense of optimism
or faith. On the other hand, a magnetic (yin) vortex --such as
Crossing-- calms and heals the psyche. It also encourages the flow of
creative or artistic energy and may even stimulate the brain's temporal lobe
to variably induce vivid memories, visions, lucid dreams, and past life or
out-of-body experiences. An electromagnetic vortex --Boynton Canyon, for
example-- readjusts any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual imbalances
one may be experiencing. The native peoples have used these earth spirals
for millennia, and they remain a natural source of invigoration and
A similar theory posits a matrix of "dome centers" enclosing sacred sites
all across the Earth. These canopies of etheric energy are thought to exist
spatially between spirit and matter. Co-authors Richard Leviton and
Coons claim that the domes as they are experienced today are merely memories
encoded in Gaia's etheric body of the quasi-material domes that have
appeared three times before in our planet's history (reminiscent of, though
not directly corresponding to, the series of Hopi "Worlds"):
"It is... not
accurate to construe the Domes as mechanical material vehicles according to
our customary understanding; they are more like transdimensional
magnetic/energy facilitators overlaid on the physical landscape. In the
first Dome Presence there were no humans on
Earth; in the second Dome
Presence there was primitive human life; and during the third Dome Presence
there were some humans who could clearly see the Domes and understand their
What these early humans saw is recounted in various ancient
mythologies (notably the Irish and Sumerian) as the
Houses of the Sky Gods."
These resonance patterns acted as both terrestrial havens for the gods
from above and instructional centers for spiritual novitiates.
enclosures were like immaculate, high consciousness meditation halls where
human awareness could be healed, uplifted, even interdimensionally
transported through the domed exit points in the Houses of the Gods,
facilitated by megalithic engineering."
Elsewhere in this article the
co-authors identify these energy forms as "wise domes" (as in wisdom-- the
missing "e"s belonging to the Elohim, the Sons of Light) which assisted the
"magelithic" (as in magus) cultures.
domes are connected by a nexus
of "dome lines," or "pulsating energy channels," which are similar to
lines. Radiating centrifugally from these sacred energy loci are spiral arms
generated in harmony with the Golden Proportion.
The Golden Mean Spiral
This special type of spiral is created in nature according to what is called
the Golden Mean, Golden Section, or Divine
Proportion, which is simply the
ratio (phi) of 1 : 1.6180339... It is derived from Fibonacci's series, or a
numerical list whereby each new number is the sum of the previous two
numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144... ad infinitum.
Regardless of how large the spiral becomes, the ratio of its dimensions
remains constant. For instance, the proportion AB to AC is the same as BC to
BD or CD to CE.
The Golden Mean can also be applied geometrically to form the
Rectangle, the sides of which contain the phi ratio. The dimensions of the
fabled Ark (spelled with a "k") of the Covenant is known to have conformed
to Golden Mean proportions. This Hebrew artifact was 45 inches in length and
27 inches in both width and height. (2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits,
with an ancient cubit equaling 18 inches.)
17 Although the sacred object was
considered sacrosanct, it has apparently disappeared, and speculation on its
The growth of many objects in nature is determined by the Golden Mean,
including the whorl pattern of sunflowers, pine cones, the distribution of
leaves on a stem, fingerprints, and hurricanes. Undoubtedly the Christian
mystical poet and painter William Blake intuited the essence of the
Mean in one of his little "Songs of Experience":
"Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.
"Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go."
Besides the obvious golden/sunflower reference, the pun on "aspire," viz.,
"a spire," points to a synonym for the word spiral. And perhaps we would not
be overly stretching the matter to note the pun on the word "pined" in
reference to the evergreen, whose cones develop their seeds according to Fibonacci's ratio. In other natural forms such as the chambered nautilus and
the horns of the bighorn sheep, growth occurs by addition to the open end of
the spiral. The object always retains its geometric shape according to the phi ratio; thus, the morphology remains proportional.
Horn size is a symbol of rank, with male horns sometimes weighing as much as
Petroglyph of bighorn sheep (left)
and possibly two elks.
Perry Mesa, Arizona
The bighorn sheep is a common zoomorph found in Hisatsinom rock art. The
Hopi god of fertility is called Alosaka (or sometimes
Muy’ingwa) and is
represented by two curving horns on his headdress. Each member of the Two
Horn (Al) Society also wears a pair of curved horns on his head. This
religious fraternity plays a crucial role in Wuwutsim, or the
Ceremony of tribal initiation which takes place in November.
This Golden Mean spiral starts at the Heart chakra located at Grand Falls,
arcs through the San Francisco Peaks (home of the kachinas, or katsinam),
sweeps by Oraibi, Shungopovi, and Walpi (the Belt), intersects Orion's right
hand, circles into the Hyades horns, and passes through Gamma Tauri.
On Diagram 1 above, we see the golden mean spiral as a component of
the geomorphology of northern Arizona. Marked in blue on the map,
"terrestrial" Orion closely mirrors his celestial counterpart, with
prehistoric "cities" corresponding to every major star in the constellation.
The Belt is represented by the
three Hopi Mesas,
where the primary
habitation of the Hisatsinom's descendants is located. Near the top right of
the map, the blue-white supergiant Rigel (Orion's left leg) correlates to
Betatakin ruin at Navaho National Monument, while the faint yellow star
Saiph (Orion's right leg) is represented by the ruins in
Canyon de Chelly
National Monument. The red supergiant Betelgeuse (Orion's
corresponds to Homol’ovi Ruins State Park, whereas the blue giant
(Orion's left shoulder) is equated with the ruins at Wupatki National
Orion's upraised right arm points toward the Hohokam ruins near
the contemporary city of Phoenix, while his left arm is aimed at the smaller
Hisatsinom ruins located throughout the Grand Canyon. Also depicted on this
map are Taurus and
the Pleiades, corresponding to Grand Canyon Caverns and
Grapevine Canyon respectively. In addition, a chakra line runs from the
Belt's middle star Alnilam (corresponding to Shungopovi, first
settled) through the Third Eye of Orion (Walnut Canyon National Monument)
southwest across Arizona toward the mouth of the Colorado River (not shown
on map). In the opposite direction (northeast) this same line traverses Mesa
Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado (also not shown).
The esoteric philosopher Dan Winter has positioned the center of the
Mean spiral at the Heart chakra of Orion. It passes through
then arcs across the Belt stars of Mintaka, Alnilam, and
Alnitak. In Diagram
1 the center of the spiral also wells up from Orion's Heart chakra, which on
our map correlates to Grand Falls along the Little Colorado River. The
word for this site is Söynapi, which means "sound of rushing water." Another
name for it is Pòosiw, "waterfall." However, the near homonym
"eye," while poosi'ytaqa refers to a medicine man using a crystal for
diagnosis. Thus, Grand Falls may be connected to the concept of vision,
especially that done in a sacred way. Combining this with the Heart chakra
location, we have the common Native American notion of seeing with the "eye
of the heart."
This Golden Mean spiral starts at the Sipapuni (Hopi "Place of Emergence"),
arcs through Oraibi (oldest continuously inhabited community on the
continent, settled c. A.D. 1100), swings through the Third Eye chakra of
Orion at Walnut Canyon, then continues its sweep through the middle of the
horns of Taurus.
In an alternative positioning shown in Diagram 2, the center of the spiral
is focused upon the Hopi Sipapuni. This schematic unifies the
with Mintaka/Oraibi and in turn with the San Francisco Peaks, home of the
katsinas (katsinam). Furthermore, the Golden Mean spirals in both diagrams
conjoin Orion with the open "V" (or "Y") of the Hyades in Taurus, whose red
eye Aldebaran the Hopi associate with their celestial god
Hence, by this mystical coil the god of earth and the Underworld (Masau'u/Orion)
is linked with the god of the sky and lightning (Sotuknang/Taurus), In other
words, "As Above, so Below."