The sky has been an important indicator of what is happening and what will happen on earth for ancient peoples all over the world for as long as man has possessed the curiosity to look up. The movement of the sun across the horizon and back throughout the year, has been especially important as an indicator and predictor of the seasons. On December 21st, 2014 the sun travelled as far south as it would go, rose for three days in the same place and then started its journey north again. That day marked the “Winter Solstice” (“Solstice” means “sun standstill”), the day with the longest night and shortest day of the year. The cultures of the Americas observed this very special day in many different ways, but for all, it was time of great portents. For what if the sun decided to continue its journey south?
When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.
— David Hume
The Power of the Astronomer
Today, astronomy is just one of the sciences and most people are, at best, fascinated by the night sky and the advancing sun and moon. But throughout ancient times, the astronomer was critical to agricultural societies. Someone had to watch the sunrises and sunsets, or the changing star patterns, or the moon cycles to determine the seasons for planting and harvesting.