Trumpeting The Queen Bee

I recently had the pleasure of meeting two fascinating bee experts, Debra Roberts and Filiz Telek. The three of us dined at an unassuming, but superb, little restaurant in Istanbul’s Galata district and, as you might expect, we discussed bees.

Resturant

The Galata restaurant where we dined. © Andrew Gough

We took turns enthusiastically sharing our stories, and over dessert Debra, who teaches beekeeping, recounted the first time she experienced queen-bee piping, or the name given to the extraordinary noise made by the queen bee during its birth and introduction into the hive.

Debra

 Debra preparing to smoke the beehive

I was enthralled, but had to confess that I was only vaguely familiar with the phenomenon. Debra asked me to look into it, for she felt it must have been important to ancient cultures, and was hoping to trace its influence. Later that night she emailed to me an audio recording of the queen-bee piping, and I listened to it intently. I became more mesmerised by the haunting sound with each and every play.

Debra’s recording of the queen bee piping: 

Adult_queen_bee

 An adult queen bee

I knew that ancient cultures were aware of at least some of the bee’s idiosyncratic traits. For instance, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle (384–322 BCE), had written about the bee’s waggle dance, and my research suggested that he was not the first to notice, or be influenced by, this ancient form of satellite navigation. But was there evidence that the ancients knew about queen-bee piping and, if so, did they incorporate the unique sound into their customs and rituals in any demonstrable way?

As I listened to the recording with my headphones, I at first thought the queen-bee piping sounded like bagpipes, or other ancient wind instruments, even the didgeridoo. Upon further contemplation, it also reminded me of a trumpet; an instrument, serendipitously enough, that has a long history of being used in ceremonies where ‘royalty’ is introduced, much like when the queen bee introduces herself to the hive and affirms her supremacy with that astonishing sound. I was intrigued.

I spent the next few hours poring through my beekeeping library, and other sources, and although I could not find direct evidence that the ancients mimicked or otherwise paid homage to the sound of the queen bee’s piping, I was surprised at how many ancient musical instruments had been crafted to replicate the sounds of nature – animal noises in particular.

I also came across the musical genre known as ‘drone’, a minimalist style characterised by the use of sustained notes – just like the buzzing sound of a bee. Before becoming popular with experimental artists like the Velvet Underground, Brian Eno and an assortment of German bands (such as Can and Kraftwerk), drone music was accompanied by Byzantine chants, or what is known as drone-singing. Curiously, many musical scholars believe that drone-singing was an attempt to imitate the bagpipe; an instrument that contrary to popular belief, did not originate in Scotland. In fact, a sculpture of bagpipes, over 3,000 years old, has been identified on a Hittite slab at Euyuk in the Middle East, and bagpipes were known about and practised by numerous ancient cultures, including the Egyptians.

Turkey Piping

I came across a variant of ancient instruments, including bagpipes, on a recent trip to Hierapolis, an ancient city situated on hot springs in Phrygia, south-western Anatolia. © Andrew Gough

The fact that ancient Egyptians practised a reeded form of the bagpipe that was later adopted by Rome is interesting, for the Egyptian King was known as the ‘Beekeeper’, held the title ‘He of the Sedge and the Bee’, and featured an image of a bee in his cartouche. Esteemed positions in the Royal Court of the Old and Middle Kingdoms held the title of the ‘Sealer of the Honey’ and ‘Overseer of the Beekeepers’, reflective of the importance of bees, and their by-products, in Egyptian culture. Even the ancient Goddess, Neith, lived in the ‘House of the Bee’, and the equally ancient God, Osiris, was buried in the ‘Mansion of the Bee’, both in Sais, the former delta capital, whose pillar inscriptions spawned the legend of Atlantis.

Additionally, many Egyptian royals included images of beekeeping on the walls of their tombs, such as the Theban Tomb (TT100) of Rekhmire, a noble of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who held the title of High Priest of Heliopolis, Vizier and Prince during the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II. There is also the Theban Tomb of Pabasa (TT279), Chief Steward to Nitocris I, Divine Adoratrice of Amun, of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. However, the most ancient, and perhaps the most notable, is Nyuserre Ini, the sixth King of the Fifth Dynasty, whose Sun Temple and pyramid at Abu Gurab, in Saqqara, illustrates the art of Egyptian beekeeping, fully formed, around 2400 BCE.

Andy at Sun Temple

 Author at the Abu Gurab Sun Temple, on the spot where the relief depicting beekeeping was located before a recent earthquake collapsed it. © Andrew Gough

abeille-miel-peinture-egypte-ne-user-re-abou-ghorab

 A sketch of the beekeeping relief from the Abu Gurab Sun Temple, 2400 BCE

However, the ancient Egyptians also revered the trumpet and two allegedly magical trumpets, one silver and one bronze, were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Not only do they remain the oldest operative trumpets in the world, they are believed to incite war when played. So, did the bee-loving Egyptians embrace the bagpipe or trumpet, because it reminded them of the queen-bee piping? As much as I would like to believe this was so, I simply could not say.

Tut tuttrumpet

 Tutankhamun’s trumpets

I was also reminded that the sound of bees humming – not a buzzing sound per se, but the explicit sounds of bees – has been recounted by individuals during yoga, near death experiences, apparitions, and even alien-abduction experiences. In Indian mythology the sound of a bee humming was emulated in Vedic chants. Certainly, the sound of the bee seemed significant, but the question remained, what about the sound of the queen-bee piping?

It was approaching 2am, but I carried on and soon dug up a curious reference to bees and piping in the Old Testament:

Isaiah 7:18:  “And it will be in that day that the Lord will make a piping sound for the fly which is in the end of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee which is in the land of Assyria.”


Academia’s explanation for the seemingly perplexing statement is that the fly and the bee refer to the armies of Egypt and Assyria, respectively. While this elucidation is possible, I remained unconvinced, and have my own theories, although they remain a work in progress. Still, for now, I could offer no better explanation, other than to say, it’s an interesting turn of phrase, and I am going to continue to give it some thought.

At first glance I had been unable to confirm Debra’s suspicion that the sound of the queen-bee piping was revered by the ancients, but my investigation has only just begun. And with this sort of thing awareness is the first step towards enlightenment. Time will tell what the bees want me to know.

The Cybele Conundrum

There is an image of Cybele, the mythological ‘Mother of the Gods’, that has haunted me for years. The early 20th-century postcard shows an eroded rock-statue of the Goddess on Mount Sipylus, Turkey, with an exhausted looking traveller recuperating at its base. The ancient relief is attributed to the Hittites and, according to Pausanias, the 2nd-century Greek traveller, geographer and author of the ten-volume epic, Description of Greece, arguably the world’s first guide book, the Cybele relief is the earliest representation of the Mother Goddess ever created. And Pausanias should know – he was a local.

1 KybeleStatue19thCenturyPostcardMountSipylusManisaTurkey

The vintage French postcard of Cybele on Mount Sipylus

I moved from London to Istanbul in early 2013 and was keen to explore Turkey, an ancient land that I had studied but never toured. So, when the first Turkish Bayram arrived, I was off.

My flight from Istanbul landed in Izmir late morning and I headed straight to Manisa, a city in Turkey’s Aegean region, about an hour’s drive north of Ephesus. My hope was to locate the Cybele relief, which I understood was located on the northern flank of Mount Sipylus, part of an ominous mountain range and one that casts an omnipresent shadow over the town, with minimal struggle. The region around the Mount Sipylus is fascinating and is steeped is prehistory, including over fifty sets of fossilised footprints dating to around 25000 BCE and famous (albeit curious) tombs, part of the ‘Yortan culture’, contemporaneous with Troy II (3000-2500 BCE), and celebrated for their unusual grave goods.

Prepared as I was, I struggled to find the Cybele relief, until, that is, a car park attendant in a roadside amusement park informed me that the monument I was seeking was situated on the mountain cliff in front of me. I couldn’t believe my luck, and enthusiastically began my climb. As I manoeuvered through the dense undergrowth, I remembered the parting words of the attendant, “Just follow the path.” “What path?” I thought, for there was clearly none in sight.

2a Mt Syphillus II

The imposing Mount Sipylus. © Andrew Gough

2 Mt Syphilus

The imposing Mount Sipylus. © Andrew Gough

2b Mt Syphillus

The imposing Mount Sipylus. © Andrew Gough

Three hours later I had aborted the journey. I was shattered. I mean, devastatingly exhausted. My heart was pounding and I was physically incapable of continuing. Although I could see the Cybele relief a few hundred metres in the distance, for the life of me I could not reach it; the terrain was too inhospitable. Even if I had had a machete, I would have struggled to penetrate the brutal undergrowth, especially in the oppressive 120° heat.

Bizarrely, along the way my sunglasses were stripped from my head and dispatched to god knows where. I searched for them for over 15 minutes, but to no avail. They had simply disappeared. As peculiar as this was, it did not matter. By this point I was suffering from dehydration, my legs were bleeding from the razor-sharp brambles (and would later require bandaging) and I had begun to feel a sense of panic, and fatigue, for I knew that I was in store for three hours more of the same on my return journey. I took some pictures with a zoom lens and turned back, vowing that I would complete the journey, someday.

 

3 As far as I got the first time

The deceptively close Cybele relief, from the spot to which I retreated. © Andrew Gough

A week later my laptop was stolen in Moscow and all my photos from the trip were lost, including those of the Cybele relief. Fortuitously, I had posted a few on Facebook. Nevertheless, I was devastated.

A year later, I finalised plans for my next Bayram adventure. This time I would visit Troy, Assos, Mount Ida, Pergamon, Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Hierapolis, amongst other historical sites. Still, I couldn’t get Mount Sipylus and the Cybele relief out of my mind. I felt that it was my destiny to return. But how would I fit it into my already overcommitted schedule?

I arrived in Ephesus quite late and prepared for an early start the next day. Having visited the World Heritage site the year before, I moved quickly though its many extraordinary attractions and found myself with the afternoon free. I was trying to suppress my desire to return to Mount Sipylus, but soon gave in. I had always known I would.

I drove like a man possessed and found the site without difficulty, only this time it was packed with hundreds of Turkish holidaymakers. This presented an opportunity, I felt, to secure a guide; someone who knew about this so-called path to the Cybele relief.

4 Poster

The amusement park boasted a nearby natural rock carving on Mount Sipylus that was associated with Cybele, but ironically made no mention of the Hittite relief of Cybele directly above on the mountainside. © Andrew Gough

I took some photographs of the Cybele relief from the car park and checked the compass on my iPhone, noting that the monument faced due north. I entered the park and requested a guide, but was informed that I should come back three days later, after Bayram, for it was simply too busy – all the guides were performing other jobs during the holiday festivities.

With some persistence I managed to meet my would-be escort, and found him a confident man; one who had grown up in the shadow of Mount Sipylus and knew it well. The problem was he was committed to managing the restaurant for the next two days. I offered him an attractive sum of money, in the hope of persuading him to reconsider, and within a few minutes a young man, maybe 25 years of age, was introduced as my substitute guide. He proceeded to consult with the expert and seemed confident about what was required. The fact that he did not already know the way to the Cybele relief concerned me, but I was blinded by my desire to examine the relief up close, like the traveller on the French postcard. And so we started on our journey. It was already 3pm.

We had been hiking for only five minutes when my substitute guide became disorientated. I seemed to know the mountain better than he did. Although he did not speak English, we understood that we were to veer to the left for a few hundred metres before circling back, thus avoiding the worst of the forbidding terrain. And so we continued. Phantom paths came and went, as did the time. It was 4.30pm and we were nowhere near the Cybele relief. It would be dark in two hours. My substitute guide called his colleagues below for assistance. Nobody answered.

Quide 2
My substitute guide calling for help. © Andrew Gough

Our path was as heavily wooded as the route I had taken the year before, only worse, for now we were required to scale sheer walls of stone – with no rope, or safety net. One rock face, in particular, was nearly 50 feet straight up, and contained no grooves for feet or hands. We must have been mad. One slip meant serious injury, or worse. We trekked slowly, cautiously. There was no alternative. Our goal was to reach the Cybele relief, and then our descent would be easy, for certainly there would be a path back down the mountain. Wouldn’t there?

By 6pm the sun was setting. I had begrudgingly agreed to forsake Cybele and retreat back down the mountain. Basking in Cybele’s glory was no longer an option. My concern was that our retreat would not be easy. I was exhausted and my knee was throbbing, possibly sprained. For a while I contemplated spending the night on the mountain in the hope that assistance would arrive in the morning. I rationed my bottle of water accordingly. It was that bad.

My substitute guide was upset. I could tell he was concerned about his safety, not just mine. He phoned his family. I shared his anxiety and called a special friend in Istanbul. If I went missing, I wanted someone I cared about to know where I was.

Disheartened, we descended down the very cliff side we had just climbed. The going was treacherous, and on a couple of occasions I opted for taking a running leap off a rocky outcrop into the comparative safety of the tree branches and bush below, rather than risk falling off the walls of stone to my certain peril on the rocks beneath. My guide was half my age, but still, I managed to stay with him. However, before long it was pretty much every man for himself.

It was about this time that I felt an inkling of how distraught climbers must have felt when trapped in precarious, life-threatening situations, where cutting off one’s own arm or leg became a welcome alternative to death. We’ve all seen those movies; and I know this sounds dramatic, but the instinct of self-preservation had taken over. It consumed my consciousness. Irrational, perhaps, but I was suddenly aware of what it felt like to refuse to die. I no longer cared about the pain I was enduring on the trek down. I simply had to get off the mountain, alive.

About two thirds of the way down the worst was over, and the expert guide, who must have seen our wayward ascent from the festival below – or heard our screams – met us and offered to take me to Cybele, albeit in the darkness. I was in no shape to do so and declined, wondering where his magnanimousness had been earlier, when I could have used it. Inexplicably, he continued up the mountain, informing my substitute guide, from what I could gather, that he wanted to take a photo of Cybele for me, as compensation for my struggle and disappointment. I eventually arrived back, in one piece, a bit in shock, with a noticeable limp and the now usual assortment of cuts, bruises and bloodstains. I looked back up the mountain, and in the dim light of the early nightfall I could see that the real guide was also lost. He was nowhere near Cybele.

The festival-goers looked at me as though they had seen a ghost. Indeed, perhaps they had, for I was a sight to behold; a ball of sweat, dirt and blood. I walked towards the car park, wondering why Cybele had denied me the privilege of visiting her – again. After all, I had written about her extensively and paid homage to her in my work. Why had she forsaken me? I vowed to never attempt to visit her again. There would no be no rematch. The final score would remain Cybele 2, me 0.

As I headed back to Ephesus I caught the silhouette of Mount Sipylus in my rear-view mirror. In the moonlight it looked more foreboding than ever. I reflected that over the past year I had visited many of Turkey’s most notable mountain ranges. I had driven through the Taurus mountains and had climbed sacred Mount Ida – the mythological home of Cybele. I had even ascended Mount Judi – the mountain of Noah’s descent, near the Syrian and Iraq boarders; part of a mountain range that is notoriously infested with terrorists. Each felt benevolent, except this one.

But then it occurred to me that Cybele’s Mount Sipylus, was the only mountain that had taught me a lesson – albeit a painful one – both for my body and my ego. Maybe Cybele was my friend after all, I considered. For, as I drove down the motorway all I could feel was a tremendous sense of humility and gratitude and an overwhelming appreciation to be alive. Maybe this realisation and, more importantly, this experience, was what Cybele had intended for me all along.

7 Cybele CLose Up

The Hittite relief of Cybele, as photographed from the car park with a powerful zoom lens.  © Andrew Gough

The Fleur-de-Lis and the Bee

Stylised images of bees, many of which are indiscernible to the pedestrian eye, have symbolised goddesses for tens of thousands of years. One quite famous image that many believe symbolises a bee, albeit a more modern image than the famous goddess statues from pre-history, is the fleur-de-lis. As tantalising as this association may be, I’ve always felt that it lacked sufficient visual evidence. However, I recently came across an intriguing family crest in southern Germany, which may begin to change my opinion on the matter. Before examining the find, I would like to review another iconic image that has received somewhat greater acceptance with respect to its association with the bee. I speak of the double axe.

goddess_gough13

Did the double axe of the Minoans depict a stylised bee / goddess?

In 1958 an obscure but scholarly book, Apiculture in the Prehistoric Aegean, suggested that the double axe of the Minoans was actually a stylised bee. This resonates with my own research, which has revealed that archeologists in the Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük, Turkey, observed that the double axes they were excavating resembled butterflies, images of which are easily mistaken for bees. (Çatalhöyük contains a wealth of bee symbolism, which I have chronicled in my research and which I discuss in my lectures.)

In other words, the double axes of both cultures appear to have been veiled in similar, if not identical, symbolism. This is intriguing, for DNA has revealed that the people of Çatalhöyük migrated to Minoan Crete. What’s more, the word labrys, derives from the ancient Turkish (Lydian) word for ‘double axe’, and Knossos, the capital of Minoan Crete, was known as the ‘Palace of the Double Axe’. Given that the double axe represents a stylised bee and/or goddess, this renders Knossos not the ‘Palace of the Double Axe’, but rather the ‘Palace of THE BEE (Goddess)’.

This realisation also demands that we re-examine the notion of the ‘Labyrinth’ at Knossos (which I discuss in my lectures), as this word also derives from labrys. Linguistics aside, even on the most cursory of levels the bee’s significance in Knossos is hard to refute. Take, for example, the account of King Minos, whose son drowned in a vat of honey, an illuminating fact whose implications have been largely overlooked.

Jar

One could see how a child could easily drown in one of the gigantic pithoi, or storage jars, used at Knossos © Andrew Gough

This brings us to the assertion that the fleur-de-lis may also have represented a bee, a theory supported by many, including the French physician, antiquary and archaeologist, Jean-Jacques Chifflet. However, to understand how such an iconic symbol could represent a bee, we must first understand the bee’s importance in French culture.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the famed military and political leader of France, ensured that the bee was widely adopted in his court, as well as in the clothing, draperies, carpets and furniture of the country at large. By choosing the bee as the emblem of his reign, Napoleon was paying homage to Childeric (436–481), one of the ‘long-haired’ Merovingian kings of the region known as Gaul. When Childeric’s tomb was uncovered in 1653 it was found to contain 300 golden jewels, styled in the image of a bee, and these are the same bees that Napoleon had affixed to his coronation robe.

Napoleon’s choice of the bee as the national emblem of his imperial rule also spoke volumes about his desire to be associated with the Carolingians and Merovingians, the early French kings whose funerary furniture featured bee and cicada symbolism as a metaphor for resurrection and immortality. The bee was a hugely important icon of Napoleon’s reign and his obsession with its symbolism gave rise to his nickname, the Bee.

The bee was also a vital symbol of French industry and one of the most prominent emblems of the French Revolution (1789–1799). In fact, Louis XII, King of France, was known as the ‘father of the pope’ and had featured a beehive in his coat of arms. And so the bee remained a prominent element of French culture throughout the First and Second Empires (1804-1814 and 1852-1870) due to the enthusiastic patronage it had previously received.

beeas fdl 2

Does the fleur-de-lis represent a bee?

Despite the plausibility that the fleur-de-lis may symbolise the bee, I had remained skeptical of the possibility until, that is, only recently.

In August 2014 I travelled to Lake Constance, an idyllic setting in the shadow of the Alps, nestled on the borders of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, to present the body of research I call the Hidden Hive of History.

The day after my presentation, on my birthday, I received an unexpected present, for on the shore of Lake Constance, in Konstanz Cathedral, I found a coat of arms that visually associated the bee with the fleur-de-lis.

CoA

Does this Coat of Arms in Konstanz Cathedra represent the
 fleur-de-lis as a bee?  © Andrew Gough

The coat of arms, one of many in Konstanz Cathedral, depicted six beehives beneath three fleur-de-lis, complete with an entrance to the hive. It even depicted two bees on either side of the hives. Above the image is a gold crown, representing royalty, a concept that has been associated with bees for thousands of years. While many coats of arms depict bees and many, of course, depict the fleur-de-lis, this was the first time I had seen them associated in such an unambiguous fashion.

The coat of arms in Konstanz Cathedral does not prove that the fleur-de-lis symbolises the bee, but it does graphically illustrate that there exists a belief that the bee was, and still is, a vital symbol of our past, present and future. And that is worth remembering.

Istanbul’s Whirling Dervishes

The audience looks on intently as the Whirling Dervishes conduct the preamble for their remarkable ceremony © Andrew Gough

The audience looks on as the Whirling Dervishes conduct the preamble for their remarkable ceremony © Andrew Gough

Mevlevi Lodge is one of Istanbul’s best-kept secrets. The fascinating complex, located a short walk from the 1,400-year-old Galata Tower, provides the perfect backdrop to the Sema Ritual, a sacred Sufi dance inspired by the legendary mystic, Rumi. The Mawlawi order was founded in 1273, not long after Rumi’s death, and Mevlevi Lodge was their Istanbul lodge. A Sufi museum by day, Mevlevi Lodgeprovides a unique glimpse into the history of the idiosyncratic order. It also includes an evocative cemetery, and each Sunday the grounds come alive with the vibration of one of the most esoterically rich ceremonies imaginable.

Sufi Cemetery, Mevlevi Lodge © Andrew Gough

Sufi Cemetery, Mevlevi Lodge © Andrew Gough

By 6pm the venue is filled to capacity and the audience is anxious to welcome the dancers, known as ‘Whirling Dervishes’, to the stage. The term ‘Dervish’ stems from the name of the initiate on the Sufi path, while ‘Whirling’ refers to the description of their evocative dance. I’m captivated by their regalia: a white gown symbolising death, covered by a wide, black cloak representing a grave, and a tall, brown hat that symbolises a tombstone, but which looks suspiciously like a beehive, an ancient Sufi symbol.

The Whirling Dervishes prepare to perform © Andrew Gough

The Whirling Dervishes prepare to perform © Andrew Gough

Nothing in the Whirling Dervishes’ performance is without symbolism. The ceremony commences with praise for Muhammad and is followed by the dancers’ introductory greetings. The atmosphere is haunting and the music is mesmerising, but what follows is truly astounding.

Two Whirling Dervishes greet each other © Andrew Gough

 Two Whirling Dervishes greet each other © Andrew Gough

The core of the Sema Ritual is the ‘Four Salams’ and here the dancers, representing the Moon, process around the Sheikh, or overseer, who represents the Sun.

The Whirling Dervishes process around the Sheikh © Andrew Gough

Processing around the Sheikh © Andrew Gough

The dancers skillfully spin off the toe on their left foot, with their right palm facing upwards towards Heaven and their left hand pointing at the ground. What strikes me straight away is the fact that the more experienced ritualists are ‘gone’, eyes shut, soon after they have begun, their bodies, led by spirit, unconsciously conforming to a ritual designed to take them on an invisible path to God.

A Whirling Dervish closes his eyes and drifts towards his God © Andrew Gough

 Drifting towards God © Andrew Gough

During the ceremony the dancers process around the stage four times, each procession representing a different aspect of their spiritual journey. The first is conducted in recognition of God, the second in honor of his unity, the third in surrender and the fourth in recognition of the heart. The final portion of the ceremony is called a solo Taksim, and concludes the evening in style.

Sema Ritual

The Sema Ritual © Andrew Gough


As I exited Mevlevi Lodge and walked out into the night, I felt cleansed, if not transformed, by the experience. The Moon seemed to smile, as though aware that it had just honoured the Sun in an ancient and spectacular ritual. I was keen to experience it all over again; only next time, I reflected, I am going to close my eyes.

Lana and the 27 Club

Live in London, 2012

Live in London, 2012 © Andrew Gough

 

My friend, Star Peimbert, is an amazing astrologer and occasionally she assists me with my research, such as when she provided invaluable insight into the astrological charts of Stalin and Lenin for my article, Russian Mysticism and the Secret of Stalin’s Skyscrapers. So, I have come to respect and rely on her expertise.

From time to time we Skype and in one recent conversation Star, who has studied my astral chart, spoke of events in my life in the context of a 27-year cycle, which commences at birth and provides a dramatic impact around the age of 27-28, and again around the age of 54-56. She continued telling me of her insights, but I had stopped listening.

“Excuse me, but did you just say a 27-28-year cycle?” I was asking her to rewind. “Have you heard of the 27 Club?” I continued. “The what?” she replied.

“You know – the phenomenon whereby many famous artists, usually rock stars, commit suicide (or overdose) at or around the age of 27. Nobody knows why. To be honest, I’ve always assumed it was coincidence.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” she added quizzically.

“Yeah, it’s quite famous. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and, most recently Amy Winehouse, all died from an overdose or similar cause at or near the age of 27. There is a long list of others. The thing is, I had just been thinking about the 27 Club, because the downbeat diva singer, Lana Del Rey, recently proclaimed in an interview that she wished she was ‘already dead’ – and she’s around that age.”

“Interesting… What would you like me to do?” Star asked, helpful as always to entertain my flights of fancy.

“Tell me more about the 27-year cycle, and if Lana will be next,” I replied, hoping that I was wrong, as I am a fan, having seen her in concert and enjoying the new album, Ultraviolence (her second), quite a lot.

“Ok. Send me her birth details and let me collect my thoughts, and then I’ll come back to you.” “Great. Thank you. That’s a deal,” I said with gratitude. And so I waited.

A couple of weeks passed and I decided to ping her on Facebook: “Star, hi, what’s up? Any news on Lana and the 27 Club?”

“Yes,” she said. “Skype me and I’ll tell you all about it.”

We spoke for ages, and what she shared was fascinating. She pointed out that she was able to find a ‘correlation’, but not a ‘causation’, to the tragic end of life that befell many artists around the age of 27. However, she added that this phenomenon was not limited to the entertainment industry, but that it merely had more visibility here.

Star shared that she had studied six musicians and one actor in detail: Jim Morrison (whose girlfriend, Pamela Coursen, also died at 27), Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Wilson, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse and Brandon Lee. All were famous and all had died, suddenly, by the age of 27.

Star shared that there are two cycles: the first involves the Moon and its Lunation Cycle, in this case the first Progressed Lunar Return. Their Progressed Moon, as she put it, was in exact conjunction (the same place) to their natal Moon, and less than 10° past the exact aspect. The first full cycle, she shared, takes place around the age of 27-28.

She then discussed the second cycle, which involves the first of Saturn’s Returns. She noted that Saturn was transiting at less than 30° before the exact conjunction to its natal place (Saturn Return) and that this cycle – the period when Saturn ‘returns’ by transit (regular planetary movement) to the same position as it was at birth takes about 27½ to 29½ years to complete, depending on the individual and on retrograde movements. Together, Star emphasised, these two cycle phases produce a tremendous emotional confrontation in the 27th year of life.

So, there was a pattern after all; and Star may have cracked the code. Now, perhaps for the first time, the propensity for someone of a particular set of life experiences to die young, as Star called it, ‘by a choice made at the soul level’, that is, not a conscious decision, but rather by ‘dissolving’ out of this existence and into another, at or around the age of 27, could be identified, and thus possibly pre-empted.

Star added that most of the 27 Club had reached a ‘pinnacle of existence’ at a very young age, and were public figures who (for the most part) experienced difficult childhoods and were required to mature too quickly. Fame and success came early, and rather than being ready to enter the next level, one of deeper emotional development and experience, they were seeking to escape what they perceived as the harsh realities of life. In the process most resorted to alcohol, psychedelics and extreme experiences of altered states as a way to ‘subconsciously return back to the Source’, as Star had put it.

Maybe consciously, or even unconsciously, Star added, these artists had already transcended to a higher expression of self, and were ‘dissolving’ into the ‘collective self’ on their way back to the source (via death).

I was fascinated, but had to know. “What about Lana?” I asked, pensively.

“She’ll be fine,” Star said. “I checked her chart. Not only has she just turned 28, but her Progressed Lunar Return has passed more than 9° already and her Saturn Return will still take more than 18° to conjunct her natal Saturn in her chart. So she doesn’t belong to the 27 Club. Rest easy. She’s not going to kill herself.”

“Excellent news!” I’m sure even Lana would be thrilled to hear that, I mused.

For further details on Star’s theory, you may contact her on Facebook: Star Peimbert; Skype: nydstar; and by email: nydunicorn@hotmail.com