Nicolas Poussin’s painting “Et in Arcadia Ego” contains a set of puzzles. The purpose of these puzzles is to guide us to Oak Island, Nova Scotia. This idea has been proposed by many before me, mainly motivated by the obvious connection between “Arcadia” and “Acadia”, the old name for Nova Scotia. Here is the painting:
The puzzles in the painting work like this. The figures in the painting represent different constellations of stars, and specific parts of their body represent specific stars. This connection between stars and body parts are found in the most famous star atlas in Poussin’s time, Johann Bayer’s Uranometria
). In Uranometria
Bayer introduced a new way of designating stars, where each star in a constellation is given a name consisting of a Greek or a Latin letter and the name of the constellation (in genitive). Bayer’s designation is still much used to day. The puzzles in Poussin’s painting make explicit use of Bayer’s designation. We shall see that several of the letters in the inscription “ET IN ARCADIA EGO” refer to stars with that letter as their name according to Bayer’s designation. Specific stars are also referred to by letters formed in other ways in the painting.
To guide us to Oak Island, the stars must be projected down onto the terrestrial globe. The idea that stars can be associated with specific locations on earth is not original with Poussin. It was, for instance, done explicitly by the Dutch mapmaker Gerard Mercator on his terrestrial globe from 1551 (http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/maps/exhibits/mercator/main.html
). On his globe he has marked the position of several stars. In the image below we can see that he has marked Deneb in Cygnus (Cauda Cygni), Vega in Lyre (Lyra) and Rastaban in Draco (Caput Dra).
In this series of posts I will show that "ET IN ARCADIA EGO" contains hidden information communicating that we should project four pairs of stars onto the globe, and draw lines between the stars in each pair. The stars are found in the constellations called Hercules, Gemini (the Twins) and Cygnus (the Swan), and the four pair of stars are
ε Herculis and ρ Cygni
δ Cygni and ρ Cygni
ρ Geminorum and ε Cygni
υ Geminorum and ε Cygni
Drawing lines between the 1601 positions of these pairs of stars looks like this on a celestial globe. The two stars in Gemini are on the other side of the globe. (The constellations on the globe have positions from the end of the 18th century).
On a terrestial globe from 1790 it looks like this:
We see above that the lines intersect in Acadia, close by Oak Island.
To be able to map the stars Poussin is referring to in his painting correctly onto the earth, we have to know what should be used as the terrestrial prime meridian (which should be aligned with the celestial prime meridian). Although several different terrestrial meridians were in use in the 17th century it is quite obvious which meridian we have to use. In 1634, four years before the conventional dating of “Et in Arcadia Ego”, “France ruled by Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu decided that Ferro's meridian should be used as the reference on maps” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Hierro#The_.22Meridian_Island.22
). Poussin could therefore not expect anyone to use any other meridian when decoding his puzzles. The Meridian through Ferro (El Hierro) is also the meridian with the longest history, dating back to Ptolemy, and has led to the island being nicknamed Isla del Meridiano (the "Meridian Island").
Bayer based his atlas on the measurements of Tycho Brahe, who was able to determine the position of stars with a precision of 1-2 arcminutes. This corresponds to approximately 2-4 km when the stars are projected down on the earth. Due to a phenomenon known as precession, the relative positions of stars change through time. The coordinates giving the positions of stars are therefore not the same today as it was in the 17th century. In Uranometria
Bayer used coordinates giving the position of stars in 1601. My own investigations of this have convinced me that Poussin is using the same coordinates that Bayer used to make his star atlas.
Let me now give a first, and actually quite important, example of how I think Poussin is using stars, constellations and Bayer’s Uranometria in the painting. The tip of the finger of the shepherd in red robes is the center of a circle following the back of the shepherd in white robes and the woman to the right. The circle also passes through the center of an X which the white shepherd is making with his legs.
I will argue that the X made with the legs down to the left is meant to guide us to the star called x Geminorum in Bayer’s Uranometria, that is, the star in Gemini (the Twins) given the label x, and that the ultimate point of this is that we are supposed to draw a large X with the tip of the pointing finger as the center.
If the circle drawn above refers to the celestial sky, the point in the center of the circle would have to be either the celestial South Pole or the celestial North Pole, since these are the only points in the celestial sky which can be said to be surrounded by circles. This is the celestial North Pole in Google Earth:
Here is what the celestial North Pole looks like on the celestial globe from 1792 by Cassini, laid upon the globe in Google Earth:
The position of x Geminorum with 2000 and 1601 coordinates is
2000: 120.88°, +27.79° (8h 3m 31s, +27° 47m 39s)
1601: 114.71°, +28.83° (7h 38m 52s, +28° 49m 50s)
Apps to calculate coordinates can be found here:http://lambda.gsfc.nasa.gov/toolbox/tb_coordconv.cfm http://hea.iki.rssi.ru/AZT22/ENG/cgi-bin/c_prec4.htmhttp://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/forms/calculator.htmlhttp://www.ilanga.com/epochsy/index.shtml
In the image below I have marked the 1601 position of x Geminorum with a yellow pin. Since the longitude is 114.71°, the line from the celestial North Pole to x Geminorum will make an angle of 114.71° with the prime meridian.
In the image below we see that we can read of (approximately) 114.7 on the equator line.
The point of presenting this is that I think we are supposed to draw similar lines in Poussin’s painting. If we let the tip of the pointing finger (the center of the circle) represent the celestial North Pole, and let the vertical line the finger is pointing to represent the prime meridian, a line pointing to x Geminorum at a longitude of 114.71⁰ will look like this (I have also extended the line across the North Pole diagonally downwards to the left).
Above, we can see that the line along the longitude of x Geminorum passes through the center of the X made with the white shepherd’s feet, when the line is extended across the center of the circle (the celestial North Pole). We can also notice that the folds in the clothes of the shepherd in blue robes are all directed to a specific point on this line. I will come back to this last point later.
The line also passes through the upper arm of the shepherd in red robes pointing to the center of the circle. If we now take a look at the chart for Gemini found in Bayer’s Uranometria, we find that the star Bayer chose to give the name x Geminorum is located on the upper arm of the twin called Pollux:
A facsimile version of Bayer's Uranometria can be found at http://lhldigital.lindahall.org/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/astro_atlas&CISOPTR=118&REC=10
The line along the longitude of x Geminorum gives a subtle hint that the shepherd in red is supposed to represent Pollux. The point here is that the red shepherd is holding up his thumb, and the line passes through this thumb. A thumb is easily associated with the name “Pollux”, since the Latin word for thumb is “pollex”.
Wikipedia actually warns against confusing Pollux and pollex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollux
Thus, drawing a line corresponding to the longitude of X geminorum, we hit the center of two legs making an X, and the red shepherds upper arm, corresponding to the position of x Geminorum on Pollux’ upper arm in Bayer’s star chart for Gemini.
I find it natural to interpret this as inciting us to to draw a large X in Poussin’s painting. Drawing a new line, symmetrically around the vertical line we get this:
We can first notice that the new line completing the X passes through the upper arm of the shepherd standing to the left. There are at least two plain connections between the upper arm of a human body and the constellation Gemini (the Twins). Since the white shepherd’s looks are rather similar to the shepherd in red, who I have argued is Pollux, I assume,the point here is to tell us that the shepherd in white robes is Castor, the twin brother of Pollux.
The first connection between Gemini and the upper arm is given by the muscle in the upper arm called biceps. The literal meaning of “biceps” is ‘two-headed’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biceps
). This is the reason why the two-faced Janus got the epithet ‘biceps’ (http://tinyurl.com/7o5hbdh
Secondly, a depiction of the human body common in the renaissance was what is now called the Zodiac man. In paintings or drawings of the Zodiac man, each of the constellations was connected to a part of the human body, and Gemini was connected to the upper arm (and sometimes also the shoulder). Here are two examples (several others are found here: http://tinyurl.com/cmekztb
The one to the left is from 1546. The one to the right is from 1702.
We therefore have reason to believe that the two standing men in Poussin’s painting are the twins Castor and Pollux. But if we compare the assumed pair of Castor and Pollux in Poussin’s painting with Castor and Pollux as they are depicted in Bayer’s star chart, there is one obvious discrepancy; in Bayer’s depiction we find Castor to the right of Pollux, while Castor is to the left of Pollux in Poussin’s painting. I think Poussin has done that for a reason. While Bayer has depicted Castor and Pollux as they appear in the sky when looked from the earth, Poussin has painted them as they appear when they are projected onto the terrestrial globe. That is, Poussin has painted Castor and Pollux as they appear on celestial globes. Here are images from two examples of such globes, where we find Castor to the left of Pollux, as we do in Poussin’s painting. The overall point of this is that the stars and constellations in the painting should be projected onto the earth, and ultimately bring us to a specific location on earth, to Oak Island.
(The one to the left is Mercator’s from 1551 found here: http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/maps/exhibits/mercator/main.html
. The one to the right is Cassini’s from 1792 found here: http://www.davidrumsey.com/view/google-earth-browser#celestial-globe-1792
Let us now take a closer look at where the lines in the X I have drawn pass through the inscription “ET IN ARCADIA EGO”.
The inscription is in Latin, but the shepherds are Greek. I think we are supposed to apply both Latin and Greek to decode messages in the inscription. I also think the point of the line going diagonally downwards towards the right, is that it separates “ARCADIA” into “ARCA” and “DIA”. The line passes through the D in “DIA”, and “DIA” is a Greek word meaning ‘through’ (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/DIA-
). “ARCA” is Latin meaning ‘chest’ (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/arca#Latin
). Combining “ARCA” = chest and “DIA” = through, this could express something like ‘through a/the chest”. Looking at the extension of the line downwards to the right we see that the line passes through a chest down in the right corner.
Looking even more carefully at the chest, it seems to me that the line passes through something that could be a lock on the chest.
My interpretation of “ARCA – DIA” – ‘through the chest’ and the line through the lock on the chest is that this is meant to confirm that the X I have drawn in the painting is intended, and that the X works as a key to unlock other secrets in the painting. The main thing to be revealed is that the painting is designed to guide us to Oak Island. I will start to describe how this is done in my next post. I end this post with what I believe is one more intended interpretation of the separation of ”ARCADIA” into “ARCA” and “DIA”.
Mythologically, the name “Arcadia” is said to stem from “Arcas”, the name of one of the first kings of Arcadia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcas
). Again according to mythology, Arcas and his mother Callisto were placed by Zeus in the celestial sky as the Little Bear (Ursa Minor) and Great Bear (Ursa Major). I think we are supposed to associate “ARCA” with Arcas, and that “ARCA” + “DIA” should be interpreted as ‘through Arcas’, that is, as ‘through Ursa Minor’. The point of this is to confirm that the center of the X I have drawn is the North Pole. Below, I have drawn the X on the celestial globe from 1792. The little bear close to the North Pole is Arcas (Ursa Minor), which both lines in the X pass through.