Is There a Flood in the Stars?


The constellations appear to tell the story of a great flood. How is this possible?

The human mind is designed to see patterns, like figures in the clouds. Since early times, the human imagination has connected stars into familiar patterns, which we call constellations. Most sound like a complete stretch. Yet a surprising number of basic images appear across cultures—a fish, a snake, a ship, a sacrifice.

Is it possible that some constellations commemorate an earth-changing event seared into humanity’s memory? That’s what the famous 19th-century popularizer of astronomy, Richard A. Proctor, proposed in his book Myths and Marvels of Astronomy.

He pointed out that the Western system of constellations, which the Greeks borrowed from earlier civilizations in the Middle East, included stars that the Greeks could no longer see. (The wobbling earth changes our view of the stars slowly over time, called the precession of the equinoxes.)

When he looked for the time and place when all those stars would be visible on the horizon, Proctor found something amazing. You could see all 48 original constellations if you were (a) living near Babel, about 35 degrees north latitude, and (b) living in the mid-to-late third millennium BC (the time of the Tower of Babel)!

Just coincidence? Proctor also pointed out that certain constellations depict a flood story as they move across the sky. Could this be another flood legend (like so many others anthropologists have found around the world), which loosely resembles the Bible’s true flood story? You decide.

Star Chart

Illustration by Corey Godbey

As the earth rotates, the stars seem to move across the sky. The first constellation to appear is Aquarius (far right), followed by a procession of constellations that form a “story.” This approximates the sky that people would have seen at the Tower of Babel, before some stars dipped below the horizon because of the earth’s wobble. (Click image for larger chart.)

7:15 A.M.

Today this constellation is usually depicted as a person (Aquarius) pouring out water, but ancient Greek versions simply had water pouring out of a pot.

3:00 P.M.

The water pouring out from Aquarius fell on the next constellation, Pisces—a pair of fish.

6:30 P.M.
Argo Navis

Later a large ship appears in the sky. (This ancient constellation, called Argo Navis, was depicted as half a ship.)

6:30 P.M.

Above the ship is the sea snake, Hydra. You might think Hydra brings death and destruction. But Proctor suggested it originally represented the horizon line between water and sky, as you looked above the ship.

9:30 P.M.

Behind Hydra is a raven (Corvus), mentioned in the Bible account (Genesis 8:7) as well as in pagan flood legends.

10:00 P.M.

The partial ship (Argo Navis) is traditionally followed by Centaurus, a half man, half horse. Proctor suggested that the “horse” part of Centaurus was originally the ship’s stern. If so, this would produce a complete ship and a man (a Noah figure!).

11:30 P.M.

The centaur is usually depicted with a lance hoisting a slain wolf onto an altar (Ara). For a long time, most people thought the Milky Way above Ara looked like smoke rising off the altar. Noah, as well as heroes in legends, offered burnt offerings after surviving the flood (Genesis 8:20).

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