Chaos and the Milky Way

As told in Chaos, Gaia, Eros, the word "Chaos" or "XAOS" came into use only in ancient Greece (Hesiod), yet had a prehistory in the Goddess religions of the Old World. One survival into our patriachal epoch is in Tiamat, the chaos goddess of Babylon before Marduk. Her image was watery, in the mixture of two currents, but there is reason to believe that the two currents were actually in the sky: the two sides of the Milky Way.

As we now know, the Milky Way is our flat, spiral galaxy, seen from earth, circuling an orbit quite oblique to the plane of the galaxy, and rather far from the center. Thus, depending on the time of year, we see the "northern" or the "southern" half of the galaxy. If the two sky images are superimposed, an X is formed, a perfect sign of chaos. The Incas thought this so important that they imitated the X of the Milky Way in the NW-SE and NE-SW street grids of their cities, Cuzco, Misminay, and Machu Picchu in Peru. Cf. Goeffrey Cornelius and Paul Devereaux, The Secret Language of the Stars and Planets, 1996, p. 160.

Revised 23 November 1999 by Ralph Abraham, <>