__VOL I, No. 17 June 30, 1997
VELIKOVSKY'S COMET VENUS David Talbott
CONTENTS: CRITIC, BOB FORREST
VELIKOVSKIAN RESEARCH AND CATASTROPHISM
SOUL-BIRD, WINGED STAR
In _Worlds in Collision_, Velikovsky noted many tales of disaster and upheaval in which the agent of destruction possesses cometary attributes, even as it is identified with the _planet_ Venus. The anomalous "cometary" traits of Venus in world mythology thus became key pieces of the argument, and the strength of the argument derived from the breadth of sources.
Velikovsky did not rely on traditions of one region only, but drew on key evidences from every ancient civilization. He noted, for example, that in Mexican record, Venus was "the smoking star" the very phrase natives employed for a "comet." He noted in both the Americas and the Near East, a recurring association of Venus with celestial "hair" and with a celestial "beard," two of the most common hieroglyphs for the comet in the ancient world. But another popular glyph for the "comet" was the serpent or dragon, a form taken by the planet Venus in virtually every land. And the same planet, among the Babylonians and other races, was called the "flame," or "torch of heaven," a widespread symbol of a comet among ancient peoples.
According to Velikovsky, the history of the comet Venus, inspiring the most powerful themes of ancient myth and ritual, speaks for a collective memory of global upheaval: earthshaking battles in the sky, decimation of nations on earth, an extended period of darkness, the end of one world age and the birth of another.
When it comes to debunking Velikovsky's historical argument, no critic has applied himself more energetically than Bob Forrest of England. In a six volume work, _Velikovsky's Sources_, Forrest undertook to analyze virtually every historical reference employed by Velikovsky, concluding that, when taken in their actual context, the data brought forth by Velikovsky simply do not support the thesis of _Worlds in Collision_.
Forrest's work was later updated, corrected and summarized in a very readable volume called A Guide to _Velikovksy's Sources_, which is the source we will use in this overview.
Since publication of the latter work in 1985, Forrest's critique has been frequently cited by scientific skeptics as a definitive blow to Velikovsky, delivered on Velikovsky's own turf (ancient myth and history). And whatever one's opinion on the merits of Forrest's analysis, it is to his credit that, in the forty years since publication of Worlds in Collision, his work is the only substantial critique of Velikovsky's use of myth. "Despite the scholarly appearance of Velikovsky's work," Forrest writes, "I think the theories put forward in Worlds in Collision are wrong at an elementary and common sense level."
And what, at an "elementary level," does Forrest object to? "The gist of the objection to it is that one will nowhere find anything like a direct historical reference to catastrophic bombardments by the planets Venus and Mars."
Having devoted more than twenty years to the exploration of myth, I find the objection particularly interesting because my own conclusion is quite the opposite. The planetary subjects of Worlds in Collision are Venus and Mars, and the catastrophic roles of these planets in ancient times are not only evident, but provable through normal rules of logic and demonstration. (For the sake of focus, these brief submissions will consider only the cometary Venus.) It is not only possible to answer the question — was Venus formerly a "comet"? — but to answer the question in overwhelming detail, with verifiable data and an inescapable conclusion: Velikovsky's comet Venus lies very close to the center of ancient religious, artistic and literary traditions.
How can it be that two researchers, approaching the same field of data, can draw such incompatible conclusions? The heart of the issue, I suggest, has to do with one's approach to the subject matter. In penetrating to the core of ancient celestial imagery, methodology is everything.
VELIKOVSKIAN RESEARCH AND CATASTROPHISM
The gap separating the mainstream sciences and social sciences from Velikovsky's revolutionary approach to myth needs to be appreciated: The Velikovskian investigator has discovered that none of the primary themes of myth answers to our familiar sky. Hence, to focus on recurring themes is to focus on the recurring anomalies of myth.
But rather than confront the issue of recurring anomalies, Forrest descends into a swamp of marginal details, picking at virtually every paragraph of _Worlds in Collision_, while rigorously avoiding cross-referencing. As a result, the author consistently fails to see past the veil in which modern perception has wrapped ancient myth. It is as if general patterns and connections are of no interest. In every case of an anomaly noted by Velikovsky, Forrest's "answer" is simply to cite someone else's guess at an explanation (and I DO mean guess) — though many of the cited authorities offered their guesses prior to Velikovsky's novel interpretation, and none of these authorities seems aware of the larger pattern.
In this way, Forrest reverses Velikovsky's approach, for Velikovsky connects anomalous Venus images of one land with corresponding anomalies from other parts of the world. Recurring anomalies, as correctly perceived by Velikovsky, are the key to discovery.
Let me say at the outset that I have no interest in defending Velikovsky's every word. More than once, Velikovsky did misuse his sources. (I had stated this emphatically to others perhaps ten years before Bob Forrest's published criticisms) And my own opinion is that Velikovsky placed the events in the wrong time. Additionally, I think that many mythical-heroic figures Velikovsky assumed to have been historical were in fact part of a mythical tradition having nothing at all to do with men of flesh an[d] blood.)
Can globally-experienced events account for the recurring "catastrophe myths," or must they all be explained by wholly separate, localized disasters? If one resorts to the latter explanation, then no underlying integrity of catastrophe myths is even possible in significant detail. But the inescapable counterpart of this observation is that, if the myths of widespread cultures present the same improbable story in significant detail, then it is the localized explanation that becomes impossible.
A reasonable methodology cannot ignore the convergence of recurring themes on an underlying idea, even if that idea stands outside modern perception. To make this point it will be helpful to start with a single example in one region, then work toward a comparison with the Venus symbolism of other lands.
__VOL I, No. 18 July 3, 1997
VELIKOVSKY'S COMET VENUS (2) David Talbott
In arguing for the cometary character of Venus, Velikovsky cited Aztec records suggesting that the planet Venus shared the same title given a comet.
The early traditions of the peoples of Mexico, written down in pre-Columbian days, relate that Venus smoked. "The star that smoked, la estrella que humeava, was Sitlal Choloha, which the Spaniards called Venus."
"Now, I ask," says Alexander Humboldt, "what optical illusion could give Venus the appearance of a star throwing out smoke?"
Sahagun, the sixteenth century Spanish authority on Mexico, wrote that the Mexicans called a comet "a star that smoked." It may thus be concluded that since the Mexicans called Venus "a star that smoked," they considered it a comet.
In Bob Forrest's mind, the Aztec references could have nothing to do with "what may or may not have happened back in the mid second millennium BC" -- because the references to Venus "smoking" come from the sixteenth century A.D.
In a number of instances Aztec records say that the earth shook and the star sitlal choloha (Venus) smoked. To account for the curiosity Forrest simply accepts the guess of Alexander von Humboldt, "who suggested that the 'smoke' related to the volcano Orizaba, situated to the east of the city Cholula, and whose glow, when seen in the distance, resembled or was symbolically related to the rising Morning Star."
Forrest was apparently satisfied with the first guess he uncovered. "All we have are some sixteenth century records which say, every so often, that the star smoked, but since the smoking seems frequently to be intertwined with earthquake activity, Humboldt's assumption seems reasonable." With that stated, Forrest moved on, never returning to the issue of the Aztec "smoking star."
A quite different approach would have been to explore the possibility of a broader Venus-comet association to see where the available evidence leads. Guided by this intent, Forrest would have quickly found, for example, that Aztec association of "earthquake activity" with "smoking stars" belonged to the general mythology of the comet among the Aztecs. Thus, with respect to the comets portrayed in the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Telleriano-Remensis, the respected authority on Mexican astronomy, Anthony Aveni, writes:
"Comets (citlalimpopoca, or the stars that smoke) are represented frequently by the surviving historical documents, usually by a stellar image on a blue background with emanating streams of smoke. These usually signify that a person of nobility will die; for example [one picture] tells of the death of the ruler of Tenochtitlan following the apparition of a comet; later another comet occurs, then an earthquake, all of nature's events being connected in the Aztec cosmic view."
As I hope to demonstrate fully in this series of articles, the connectedness of these images derives from a universal substratum of myth. Appearance of a comet, death of a great ruler, quaking earth — not in Mexico alone, but in one ancient culture after another, the skywatchers repeatedly placed these unusual themes in juxtaposition, despite this crucial fact: no comet observed by science has ever justified the symbolic connection. But Forrest seems unaware that the language employed in astrological texts and omens is drawn from ancient mythical images. Following his methodological groundrules, therefore, no records of "portents" in the sky recorded in the last three millennia would be of any relevance to Velikovsky's argument, even when repeatedly attaching explicit cometary images to Venus!
With respect to the image of the planet Venus as the "smoking star" in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, Aveni offers his own attempt at an explanation: "Perhaps a cometary object appeared near the planet." Of course, Forrest could just as easily have cited this guess, then dropped the whole issue. But is there something more worth investigating here?
Throughout the Americas, including Mexico, natives called a comet the "star with hair," or a "long-haired star," or a "maned star," an appellation that fits comfortably with the global language of the comet. In fact, the "long-haired star" is the single most common phrase for the comet around the world, and our own word for comet comes from the Greek kometes, the "long-haired star". Yucatec Maya dictionaries give as a gloss for "smoke star" the "maned comet". But curiously, the Aztecs used this very language for Venus. As noted by Velikovsky, they called the planet Tzonte-Mocque, meaning the "mane"-star, or "long-haired" star. And not the Aztecs alone: for one finds among the Maya the same enigmatic association of the planet Venus with long flowing hair. A commonly observed Maya hieroglyph is the Caban-curl, a flowing tassel or lock of hair repeatedly attached to acknowledged Venus symbols, including the glyph-name of Venus itself.
To encounter the long flowing locks of Venus, one need only consult available sources. Turn to the Incan language of Venus, for example. I can remember, in the first few days of investigating images of Venus, looking through a standard summary of Incan mythology and encountering the name of Venus as Chasca, translated as the "long-haired star" — the precise phrase for the comet in the global lexicon. It was instances such as this that continued to fuel my own interests in learning more.
According to William Prescott, Venus was "known to the Peruvians by the name of Chasca, or the 'youth with the long and curling locks.'" Burr Cartwright Brundage tells us that among the Inca, Venus was "the Radiant Star with the Flowing Hair." "The morning star, Chasca (The Disheveled One), dispensed stores of freshness and loveliness upon flowers, princesses, and virgins below. She was the deity of the rosy cloud rack of morning, and when she shook out her long hair she scattered the dew upon the earth."
The point here is that Forrest's "explanation" of the Aztec Venus/smoking star association fails to acknowledge converging lines of evidence: Aztec comet as smoking star, Aztec Venus as smoking star, Aztec and Mayan long-haired star as comet; Aztec Venus as long-haired star, Mayan Venus with or as flowing lock or tassel, Incan Venus as long-haired star. Hence, the methodological issue is placed in sharp relief.
Here is another way of looking at the issue logically: Around the world there are only a small number of pre-astronomical hieroglyphs for the "comet." You could, in fact, count the primary glyphs on the fingers of one hand:
heart-soul of a deceased god-king or great leader rising in the sky;
long-haired star (star with flowing locks, mane, tresses, disheveled hair, beard, hairy tail);
torch-star (ember, flame, smoke, smoking star, train of fire, spark, or train of sparks);
celestial feather (winged star, soul-bird, bright feathers, feathered headdress, shining bird's tail);
cosmic serpent, dragon, or similar monster.
The remaining general hieroglyphs for the comet could be counted on the fingers of your second hand! They include: a sword, a bundle of grass or straw (whisk, broom), or a spiraling rope (cord, tie, or knot). At what point, then, does a "coincidence" or seemingly irrational use of language (comet-words or glyphs attached to Venus) become an anomaly worth pursuing? Forrest not only sidesteps the implications of parallel cometary images of Venus in other lands, he ignores the convergence of such images in Mexico. As a methodology, the approach is disastrous, because there is much, much more.
In the popular Aztec myth of Quetzalcoatl, the Venus-comet anomaly grows by leaps and bounds. And in this case, the completeness of the cometary motifs leaves no room for ad hoc explanations.
Whether remembered by the Aztecs as a former great king and founder of the golden age, or a former sun god ruling a primordial epoch, Quetzalcoatl was a cultural hero without equal in the Aztec pantheon, his countenance adorning temple walls and the stucco bases of pyramids, painted on countless frescoes and codices, and engraved on sarcophagi and [m]onoliths strewn across Mexico.
The climactic event in the Quetzalcoatl myth is the god's catastrophic death and transformation in an overwhelming disaster — an event endlessly repeated in sacrificial rites and supplying the cornerstone of Aztec calendar rituals and astronomical symbolism. In a pervasive version of the myth, at the death of Quetzalcoatl the god's heart or soul rose in the sky as a great spark or ember, trailing smoke and fire — a "star" whose fiery train the Aztecs portrayed as the streaming tail of a quetzal-bird. Was this flaming star a "comet"? One notes that the Quiché Maya called a comet uje ch'umil, "tail of the star," and Aztec artists often drew comets as stars with quetzal tails, the bright and luminous plumes of the quetzal providing a particularly well-suited hieroglyph for a comet.
The symbolism accords well with that of other peoples. The Pawnee gave to the comet the name u pirikis kuhka, "feathered headdress" (an appellation that proves telling; see later discussion of the plumed headdress in our next installment). In Africa, the streaming comet's tail was identified as the feathers of the nightjar, and the natives say of a comet, "it is wearing streaming feathers." Astronomer Carl Sagan, in his review of worldwide comet motifs, notes that comets are called "tail stars" and "stars with long feathers." Germanic races called a comet the peacock's tail, while in China a comet was seen as both a peacock's tail and a pheasant's tail.
That Quetzalcoatl's "flaming" or "plumed" heart-soul meant a comet-like star is substantiated by converging lines of evidence. Its cometary character, for example, would agree with a general tradition among the Aztecs that comets were the ascending souls of great chiefs. That Quetzalcoatl was the model of the good king gives perfect sense to the symbolic motif. But Quetzalcoatl was also the prototype of the Aztec shaman (that is, he was the celestial figure whose biography provided the general myth and symbolism of the shaman). It is thus worth noting that in South American lore, the soul of a shaman was believed to depart in the form of a comet. Noteworthy as well is the fact that a comet appearing some time prior to the conquest of the Aztecs by Cortez was "reckoned as a positive sign that Quetzalcoatl would eventually return to Mexico."
To suggest that the heart-soul of Quetzalcoatl rose as a comet is simply to place the Aztec symbolism alongside a universal tradition: cultures around the world proclaim the comet to be the soul of a dying king. Thus, we have listed this significant theme as number one in our short list of comet symbols above. (See discussion to follow.)
But there is a problem here. While several variations on the story of Quetzalcoatl's death have been preserved, one of the central elements is the identification of the heart-soul as the planet Venus. Burr Cartwright Brundage gives this summary: "The god's heart, like a great spark, flies up to become a new and splendid divinity, the Morning Star." Thus a native source declares, "Then the heart of Quetzalcoatl rose into heaven and according to the elders, was transformed into the Morning Star, and Quetzalcoatl was called the Lord of Dawn."
We shall have more to say about this transformation. The fact at hand is that in their myths and rites the Aztecs say the separated heart-soul of Quetzalcoatl, following a period of darkened sky and cosmic upheaval, rose as the planet Venus. If the story has roots in any celestial occurrence (as explicitly claimed in the myths), the "death" of Quetzalcoatl must have involved a cosmic disaster of unprecedented scale, for no mythical-historical event left a deeper impression on Aztec thought and culture. Upon this traumatic episode, the Aztecs evolved their collective sense of cyclical time, including a calendar of world ages: the death of Quetzalcoatl, the onset of celestial confusion, and the transformation of his heart-soul into the planet Venus meant nothing less than the end of one world age and the beginning of another.
__VOL I, No. 19 July 16, 1997
VELIKOVSKY'S COMET VENUS (3) David Talbott
 SOUL-BIRD, WINGED STAR
In connection with the departure of the god-king's heart- soul as a "plumed" or "burning" star, one notes that Mesoamerican traditions produced many variations on the underlying idea. One influential variant was the idea of the heart-soul sprouting wings and soaring away. "On the death of a great noble, his soul was thought of as taking flight like a bird or a butterfly. At such a time he was addressed by those attending:
"Awaken, it has reddened, dawn has set in. Already, the flame-colored cock has sung, the flame-colored swallow, already the flame-colored butterfly flies."
The most popular form of the "soul-bird" appears to have been the quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala. My friend Phil Peters, who lived for several years among the Quiche Maya of the Guatemala lowlands, recounts the story of the famous hero, Tecúm-Umám, who lived at the time of the Spanish invasion. On the plains of Xelaju, the story goes, Tecúm-Umám was killed by Pedro de Alverado, of Cortez' army. "Then the quetzal bird that was in his headdress took flight, and since that tragic occasion, the quetzal no longer sings."
What is crucial in any study hoping to comprehend such ideas is the ability of the celestial reference — the mythical archetype — to give meaning to the symbol. In the Vienna Codex, or Vindobonensis, the planet Venus is depicted with wing-like appendages. Can the "wings" of Venus — said to represent Venus' "radiance" or "greatest brilliancy" — be separated from the global myth of Venus as the soul-bird?
Though we cannot here stop and review the countless parallels in other lands, we would be remiss if we failed to observe that the avian flight of the heart-soul is a world-wide theme. The earliest instances will be found in Mesopotamia and Egypt, where the Venus goddesses Inanna, Ishtar, Isis and Hathor (to name only the most prominent instances) all represent the "soul" in the form of a bird taking flight. Thus, the great god-kings, whose heart-souls are the star Venus, customarily depart in the form of a dove, partridge, or swallow, virtually universal symbols of Venus, of transformation, and of the departing "soul". (The reader will find many examples in the remaining installments.) Are these widely dispersed recollections of Venus as soul-bird different from the universal myth declaring that the great king's or chief's soul appeared in the sky as a comet? Though the issue will not be resolved in a few paragraphs, cross referencing will suggest potentially fruitful lines of inquiry. It is certainly of interest, for example, that the Babylonians employed the phrase "winged star" for the comet. Additionally, as we will see, it is when Venus as soul-bird spreads its wings that the cometary images are most emphatic.
In our brief list of comet glyphs cited earlier we have also listed the cosmic serpent or dragon, and in Mexico this fascinating theme proves to be crucial. Once the researcher has learned that Mesoamerican stargazers considered a comet to be the ascending heart-soul of a great chief, he can no longer ignore the full range of related symbols: the planet Venus, the rising heart-soul of Quetzalcoatl, is not just portrayed as an ember-like star (= comet), not just depicted as a star with quetzal-tail (= comet), but is said to have taken the form of a great cosmic serpent (= comet both in Mexico and in the universal language of comets).
The name Quetzalcoatl itself is simply a combination of two Nahuatl terms -- that for the quetzal-bird, known for its long brilliant turquoise tail, and the serpent or coatl." Thus two of our listed five most common comet glyphs are brought together in the name of the god. And the combined hieroglyphs clearly have a long history. The earliest known version of the plumed serpent pre-dates the Aztecs by many centuries, appearing on monuments of the Formative Olmecs. Conceptually, the avian serpent reached significantly beyond Aztec culture. The Maya name for the same god, Kulkulkan, carries an equivalent meaning, as does the Quiché figure, Gucumatz. The same figure appears to have entered Zuni ritual as the plumed serpent Kolowisi and Hopi ritual as the plumed serpent Palulukong.
Though the figure of Quetzalcoatl is complex and appears to combine originally distinct traditions, the identification of the spiraling serpent itself (the transformed heart-soul) with Venus has survived even into modern times. Some of the Tzotzil groups, for example, still describe Venus as "the Big Serpent" (Mukta Ch'on.) Among the Chichimec tribes, Venus is still remembered as the "Serpent Cloud."
Is it significant, then, that Aztec manuscripts depict a comet as a fiery serpent or dragon-like creature descending from the stars? The priest-astronomers knew the comet as "the star serpent." In his exploration of comet symbolism, Peter Lancaster Brown observed that the natives of Mexico represented comets "by the plumed serpent depicted in various forms." But what does this say about the acknowledged identification of the plumed serpent with the planet Venus, the ascending heart-soul of Quetzalcoatl? "It seems very likely that the white and bearded god who appeared in the east associated with the Quetzalcoatl (Serpent God) legends of pre-Columbian Middle America relates to the apparitions of spectacular comets in the morning sky and not to the planet Venus," Brown writes. Here again we see an author attempting to rationalize a clearly stated Venus-comet connection, offering his own explanation. But in this instance the "explanation" involves nothing less than a rewriting of the Aztec religion: for the identity of the transformed heart-soul of Quetzalcoatl as the planet Venus was an unshakable tenet of the myths and rites.
With respect to the Mesoamerican celestial serpents and dragons, there is also the issue of attached streamers that often look more like long-flowing, spiraling locks of hair than like feathers. This unique feature is particularly significant since the disheveled "mane" of the celestial serpent-dragon is a worldwide motif. And yet, remembering that pre-Columbian astronomy depicted the comet as both a celestial serpent and a "mane-star," should it surprise us that the serpentine form of Venus possesses streamers suggestive of the flowing "hair" of countless celestial serpents and dragons in other lands? Since Venus was itself the "mane" or long-haired star in widely dispersed cultures, the underlying integrity is undeniable.
In fact, no stretch at all is needed to establish the equation of flowing mane and serpent-dragon or chaos monster. The Aztec Tzonte-Mocque, identified with the planet Venus, and whose name Brasseur translated as "mane," was depicted as a dragon-like monster approaching the Earth in periods of eclipse or universal darkness. (As we will discover, every eclipse of the Sun and Moon became a symbol or reminder of the primeval cometary disaster and the arrival of the world-ending night). A counterpart of this chaos- or eclipse-demon is the Aztec Tzitzimitl, with "madly disheveled hair," descending upon a darkened world.
This is, of course, precisely the image of the raging comet in numerous other lands. "A comet was supposed to be a tendril of the Great Mother's hair appearing in the sky as the world was slowly overshadowed by her twilight shadow of doomsday," writes the noted student of world mythology, Barbara Walker.
But the interconnected comet glyphs attached to the chaos monsters range far beyond these instances. A symbolic counterpart of this streaming "hair" is the enigmatic, but frequently depicted beard of the Mesoamerican serpent- dragon. The Aztec Plumed Serpent, the Mayan Great Bearded Dragon and numerous counterparts of these celestial monsters are distinguished by flowing beards that are every bit as preposterous, on the face of it, as their streaming "manes". The reader will recall the celestial beard or bearded star in our short list of comet symbols, as a logical extension of the "long-haired star". (Thus the Greek _pogonias_, the beard-star, means "comet".) While a bearded serpent is a biological absurdity, the anomalous beard is immediately explained if the Venusian serpent is a long-haired star or comet. If the celestial beard did not mirror a comet-like form in the sky, then the bearded serpent is one more anomaly left unanswered, despite a consistent pattern that seems to cry out for recognition.
To keep all of this in perspective it needs to be remembered that Quetzalcoatl — whose heart-soul became the plumed serpent — was himself the white and bearded god, with many counterparts spread across pre-Columbian America — one more anomaly to add to the equation. Thus Frank Waters, surprised at the prevalence of this unusual figure among the dark-skinned natives of the New World (typified by Quetzalcoatl and the Incan Viracocha), assures us the myth was "so common throughout all of pre-Columbian America that we can regard it as arising from a concept in the unconscious."
A relationship with the planet Venus is clear, though not without wide-ranging interpretations by the specialists. According to Thompson, the Maya described Venus as being "very ugly with a heavy beard," and the Aztecs preserved a similar tradition: of Ehecatl, whom most authorities identify with Venus, it was said that "his beard was exceedingly long."
Lastly, on the matter of the flowing hair, mane, or beard of the celestial serpent or dragon, I should like to register an opinion on one additional oddity — that of the Mesoamerican feline dragon. Here, too, we are dealing with an image begging for a comparative study, since the "outlandish" merging of cat, lion, jaguar, tiger, or lynx with a celestial serpent seems to have occurred in all major cultures. Since noticing the oddity in Mesoamerica, I have noted as well the general disinterest of the specialists in accounting for such an incongruous monster. A cat and a serpent? Here, nature itself provides not a clue as to how anyone (much less skywatchers around the world) could think of the one when confronted with the other. But an analysis of this mythic creature can be advanced dramatically by the Velikovskian methodology. What one looks for is an underlying shared attribute (not of the terrestrial symbols, which offer no shared attribute, but of the celestial reference inspiring the symbols), and in this instance there can be no doubt that it is the mane of the celestial feline figure and the twisting body or tail of the celestial serpent.
While this is not the place to attempt a summary of evidence I shall present in future installments, I will simply mention the Egyptian instance of the goddess Tefnut, the Eye (= heart-soul) of the former sun god Ra. The Eye of Ra, on its departure, becomes the raging Uraeus serpent. But in the account of the goddess Tefnut as departing Eye, the raging goddess (serpent) is also depicted as a lion head with flaming, smoking mane. Of course it is not one instance, but the repeated instances of such motifs that will make the case secure. I register the supposition now to prepare the way for a comparative test.
Throughout Mesoamerica one will find numerous variations on the theme of the celestial serpent and just as many connections with the planet Venus. A particularly fascinating instance is the so-called "Fire Dragon", whose name, translated literally, means Turquoise Dragon.
Significantly, Xiuhcoatl was described as a "heavenly torch". "In mythology he becomes the fiery weapon hurled by the victorious sun at his enemies, the stars," writes Brundage. Perhaps there is more here than the reader will immediately recognize. A torch or flame in the sky, only a minor variation on the "smoking star," belongs to the universal comet myth — item three in our list of the five most common comet glyphs. Moreover, as I intend to demonstrate, one of the repeated themes in the myth of the prototypical comet is that it appears as a divine weapon hurled against rebelling powers. Consider the lines of Shakespeare, in Henry VI — I.I.1:
"Comets, importing change of times and states Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky And with them scourge the bad revolting stars. That have consented unto Henry's death."
The motifs are: death of the king, celestial rebellion, and appearance of the comet as both a sign of world change (passing of world ages) and a weapon launched against the rebels. Similarly, the Aztec dragon Xiuhcoatl, the flaming serpent, appears as the "fire stick" wielded by the celestial hero Huitzilopochtli when the heavens were overrun by the demons of darkness.
Was the comet-like Turquoise Dragon, then, linked to the planet Venus? "In Teotihuacan the dragon is plainly portrayed as an overarching sky motif, a path for stellar objects," writes Brundage. "He is a plumed rattlesnake [i.e., a counterpart of the plumed serpent of the Quetzalcoatl myth] ... He can be identified, from the quincunx (the five points that together form the emblem of the morning star) that adorns him, as the planet Venus."