A Queen Mother with a Blessed Memory

260px-Pleiades_large
The Pleiades are seven stars know by the ancients around the Mediterranean. They were considered to be feminine…Seven Sisters, Seven Mothers, etc. It would seem to be “natural” for a beloved wise woman who died for the Law of Sevens…the Sabbath Year…to ascend to heaven as one of those stars. The “seven stars” also appeared in the Book of the Revelation of St. John the Divine: And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…and he had in his hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…The Revelation of St. John the Divine 1:12-16 Photo: A color composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitized Sky Survey NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech as seen at wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades.

Stories of the Maccabees and royalty are full of the number seven. When Simon took over for his slain brother Jonathan:

(Simon) erected seven pyramids in a row, for his father and his mother and his four brothers… and …carved prows of ships, so that they could be seen by all who sailed the sea…I Maccabees 13:26-30, Antiquities of the Jews XIII. VI.5

The mother of Judas Maccabeus and his band of brothers must have been fierce, herself…and beloved. (I wish we knew her name!) But did her grandson—Simon’s son—John Hyrcanus, also try to honor his mother as a heroine and martyr? Looking at what comes next and again from hindsight and from a woman’s perspective, I think so. Bear with me a moment here.

John Hycanus’ mother—as we saw in the last post—was a daughter of the beloved martyred High Priest Onias III (my theory) and wife of Simon the Hasmonean who became the ruler and High Priest, in part, because of her marriage alliance with him—and was the mother of John Hyrcanus the next High Priest.

But, because John had just become the High Priest and it was a Sabbath Year, he had to leave his mother to die at the hands of their enemy. He would have tried to honor her, in my opinion—as he would have participated in his father Simon’s building of the pyramids including one for his mother. Anyway, dying as she did, her body was probably not retrieved for a burial that was required for a bodily resurrection. According to Judas Maccabee, John Hyrcanus’ uncle, bodily resurrection was the promised hero’s reward.  But…as we saw in the post on Judas, perhaps a bodily resurrection was taking too long and something more was needed to honor their heroes. Consider this passage from the Book of Daniel written about this time…during or soon after what I call the Mother of All Wars:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake… And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament…as the stars for ever and ever. Book of Daniel 12:2

Now look at this innocent little passage that comes shortly after the death of John Hyrcanus’ mother. He was besieged in Jerusalem by yet another Greek king, again taking advantage of the Sabbath Year and the Jews inability to fight then:

And when he had burnt the country, he shut up Hyrcanus in the city, which he encompassed round with seven encampments…they were once in want of water, which yet they were delivered from by a large shower of rain, which fell at the setting of the Pleiades. Antiquities of the Jews XIII. VIII.2

This reference is one of two in Josephus relating to astrological events. The other one is the eclipse of the moon just days before King Herod died in 4 B.C.  Josephus saw the eclipse as politically important, as we will see. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.VI.4

Most celestial events were applied to men, royal men or manly traits but the Pleiades were a group of seven stars well-known to ancients around the Mediterranean as some version of Seven Women (seven sisters, seven mothers, seven imams, seven stars)[1]. Maybe reading too much into it, maybe not, if you take into account the subtle use of the number seven, for those who knew the Pleiades were seven stars…thereby using “seven’ twice in one passage, one could get a glimpse of a belief that Hyrcanus’ widowed martyred mother was residing now as a star in the firmament, sending rain to her besieged son.

Whether it went that far or not—and any honoring of a woman would be too much for some—this woman–even after her death will cause no end of trouble, as we will see next.

[1] The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker, Harper & Row Publishers NYC 1983

3 thoughts on “A Queen Mother with a Blessed Memory

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