Introduction to the Kabaa in Mecca
by Robert Gorter MD,PHD, et. al.
Robert gorter is emeritus professor of the university of California san Francisco
The Kabaa in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The kabba in mecca There are only a few places on Earth as venerated as the Kabaa in Mecca, located in the Hijaz region of Saudi Arabia. Thousands circle the Kaaba at the center of the Haram sanctuary 24 hours a day. Millions of homes are adorned with pictures of it and maybe one billion believers face it five times a day as one of their obligations is to pray.
Dr. Robert Gorter: “In the corner of the Kabaa, the black stone is to be found. To touch or kiss this stone is like kissing the hand of Allah. The black stone is a meteorite which was adored hundreds of years before it became the center piece of adoration and devotion in Islamic tradition. Meteorites were objects falling from the heavens and therefore, popular objects of veneration throughout China, India, Mesopotamia and Pharaonian Egypt as they were considered as a “Deo ex Machina.”
The prophet Mohammed solves a dispute over lifting the black stone into position at the Kaaba; now to be seen in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland.
The legends tell how, when Mohammed was still a young man, the Kaaba was being rebuilt and a dispute arose between the various clans in Mecca over who had the right to rededicate the black stone. (The Kaaba was at that time still a polytheistic shrine, this being many centuries before Islam founded.) Mohammed resolved the argument by placing the stone on a cloth and having members of each clan lift the cloth together, raising the black stone into place cooperatively. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami’ al-Tawarikh (literally “Compendium of Chronicles” but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D. (Now in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland). Please, notice that in earlier days, it was not forbidden (haram) to portrait humans or even the prophet himself.
The beginning of Islam as a religion has been written with blood and described often precisely in the Quran: the killing of several opponents, like the Jewish-Arabic Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf by the prophet himself, or the prophet was asked to allow to murder an opponent and usually, he would give his gave his blessings.
There are at least 43 cases described by name and place and the reason for the execution in the Quran. After the death of Mohammed, there were bloody succession wars and the current division between the Sunnis and the Shiites is one example of the direct consequence of one succession war.
Dr. Robert Gorter: “One might say that Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf was one of the very first cartoonists of his time, and punished by death.”
“Today, the lashes of Raif Badawi in 2015 and 2016 stand with the murders at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, in 2015, as further symbols of the determination of many extremists to reject the norms of reason, tolerance, pluralism, equality, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the value that begins every chapter but one of the Qur’an: mercy.”
Many Things One Should Know About the Kaaba
There are only a few places on Earth as venerated as the Kabaa in Mecca, located in the Hijaz region of Saudi Arabia. Thousands circle the Kaaba at the center of the Haram sanctuary 24 hours a day. Millions of homes are adorned with pictures of it and maybe a billion face it five times a day.
Schematic impression of the structure of the Kabaa
Here are just a few things that most people may not know about the Kaaba:
1) It has been reconstructed several times
The Kaaba that we see today is not the same Kaaba that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail. From time to time, it needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.
Of course, we all know of the major reconstruction that took place during the life of the Prophet Muhammad before he became a Prophet. This is the occasion when the Prophet Muhammad averted major bloodshed by his quick thinking on how to place the Black Stone (meteorite) using a cloth that every tribe could lift up.
Since then, there has been an average of one major reconstruction every few centuries. The last renovation took place in 1996 and was extremely thorough, leading to the replacement of many of the stones and re-strengthening the foundations and a new roof. This is likely to be the last reconstruction for many centuries-to-come as modern techniques mean that the building is more secure and stable than ever before.
The plan available on Wikipedia
2) It used to have two doors and a window
The original Kaaba used to have a door for entrance and another for exit. For a considerable period of time, it also had a window situated to one side. The current Kaaba only has one door and no window.
3) It used to be multi-colored
One is so used to the Kaaba being covered in the trademark black Kiswah with gold banding that one can’t imagine it being any other color. However, this tradition seems to have started at the time of the Abbasids (whose household colour was black) and before this, the Kaaba was covered in multiple colors including green, red and even white.
4) The keys are in the hands of one family
At the time of the Prophet (saws), each aspect to do with the rites of Hajj was in the hands of different sub-groups of the Quraish. Every one of these would eventually lose control of their guardianship of a particular rite except one. On the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet (saws) was given the keys to the Kaaba and instead of keeping it in his own possession; he returned them back to the Osman ibn Talha ® of the Bani Shaiba family. They had been the traditional key keepers of the Kaaba for centuries; and the Prophet (saws) confirmed them in that role till the end of time by these words
“Take it, O Bani Talha, eternally up to the Day of Resurrection, and it will not be taken from you unless by an unjust, oppressive tyrant.”
Whether Caliph, Sultan or King – the most powerful men in the world have all had to bow to the words of the Prophet (saws) and ask permission from this small Makkan family before they can enter the Kaaba.
5) It used to be open to everyone
Until recently, the Kaaba was opened twice a week for anyone to enter and pray. However, due to the rapid expansion in the number of pilgrims and other factors, the Kaaba is now opened only twice a year for dignitaries and exclusive guests only.
Watch the video attached here to witness the doors of the Kaaba being opened (at 50 seconds) – and the simultaneous gasps of a Million people as they cry out at this auspicious moment.
6) One used to be able to swim around it
One of the problems with having the Kaaba situated at the bottom of a valley is that when it rains – valleys tend to flood. This was not an uncommon occurrence in Mecca and the cause of a lot of trouble before the days of flood control systems and sewage. For days on end the Kaaba would be half submerged in water. The fateful then started swimming around the Kaaba.
Modern adjustments to the surrounding landscape and flood prevention techniques will hopefully prevent these floodings in the future.
7) The inside contains plaques commemorating the rulers who renovated it
For years many have wondered what it looks like inside the Kaaba. Relying on second or third hand accounts from those who were lucky enough to enter just wasn’t satisfying enough. Then one lucky person who went inside took his camera phone in with him and Millions have seen the shaky footage online.
The interior of the Kaaba is now lined with marble and a green cloth covering the upper walls. Fixed into the walls are plaques each commemorating the refurbishment or rebuilding of the House of Allah by the ruler of the day.
8) There are actually two kaabas: a ponderable one and an imponderable one.
It is said that directly above the Kaaba in heaven is an exact replica. This Kaaba was mentioned in the Qur’an and by Mohammed himself.
The Messenger of Allah said narrating about the journey of ‘Isra wal Miraaj:
“Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma’mur (i.e. Allah’s House). I asked Gabriel about it and he said: “This is Al Bait-ul-Ma’mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch of angels comes into it daily).”
9) The black stone (meteorite) is broken
Ever wondered how the Black Stone came to be in the silver casing that surrounds it?
Some say it was broken by a stone fired by the Umayyad army laying siege to Mecca whilst it was under the control of Abdullah ibn Zubair ®.
However, most agree that it was most damaged in the middle ages by an extreme heretical Ismaili group from Bahrain called the Qarmatians who had declared that the Hajj was an act of superstition. They decided to make their point by killing tens of thousands of hujjaj and dumping their bodies in the well of Zamzam.
As if this act of treachery was not enough, these devils took the Black Stone to the East of Arabia and then Kufa in Iraq where they held it ransom until they were forced to return it by the Abassid Caliph. When they returned it, it was in pieces and the only way to keep them together was by encasing them in a silver casing. Some historians narrate that there are still some missing pieces of the stone floating around.
10 It is not supposed to be a cube shape
The Kaaba actually started out shaped as a rectangle. The Kaaba was never meant to be a cube. The original dimensions of The House included the semi-circular area known as the Hijr Ismail.
When the Kaaba was rebuilt just a few years before the Prophet received his first revelation, the Quraish agreed to only use income from pure sources to complete the rebuild. That meant no money from gambling, looting, prostitution, interest etc. In the ultimate sign of how deeply mired in wrongdoing the Jahili Quraish were, there was not enough untainted money in this very wealthy trading city to rebuild the Kaaba to its original size and shape!
They settled for a smaller version of the Kaaba and put a mud brick wall (called “Hijr Ismail” although it has no connection to the Prophet Ismail himself) to indicate the original dimensions. Towards the end of his life, the Prophet intended to rebuild the Kaaba on its original foundations but passed away before he could fulfill his wish. Apart from a brief interlude of a few years during the reign of Caliph Abdullah ibn Zubair ®, the Kaaba has remained the same shape that the Prophet saw it in.
All adult Muslims, both male and female, are required to perform Hajj, as long as they are of sound mind and body and the performance of the Hajj does not create hardship for their families. During Hajj, males wear only a pair of sandals and the ihram, which consists of two sheets of white cloth, one covering the waist down and the other draped over the shoulder. This symbolizes the shedding of wealth and social differences. Women wear a white dress or their own modest native apparel. Once they are wearing the ihram, pilgrims do not cut their hair, shave, trim their nails, wear perfume, have sex, curse, quarrel, harm animals or plants or carry weapons. Men may not cover their heads, and women may not cover their faces and hands.
Performance of the Hajj dates back to the time of Abraham, and Hagar (second wife of Abraham) and their son Ismael’s survival in the desert. To perform Hajj, pilgrims must journey to Saudi Arabia. Rituals include walking seven times around the cube-shaped Kabaa, kissing or touching the Black Stone, running back and forth seven times between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah hills, spending an afternoon on the plain of Arafat, visiting special holy places, and throwing stones at three pillars. At the end, the pilgrim circles the Kabaa once more before leaving Mecca. Once a person has performed Hajj, the title of Hajji is added to his or her name.
More to the black stone (meteorite):
The Kaaba is a monumental stone temple in Mecca in the form of a cubic structure with a height of 15 meters, 12 meters long and 10 meters wide. Its corners are turned to the four corners of the world.
The Kaaba Stone with the black stone corner facing south-east
In the corner of the eastern side at a height of 1.5 meters is the sacred stone walled Hajar (Black Stone, from the Arabic al-Hajar al-Aswad (الحجر الأسود), which means ‘black stone’). In the 683, years during the riots caused by the warring Arab tribes, it was damaged and collapsed at least in three parts (different sources give different), so put it in a silver rim. Replica ring made of gold can be seen in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The stone is black, and gleaming reddish tinge. Apparently, the original was white, but under the influence of absorption of sins of these pilgrims who made a tribute to the stone by touching it, the meteorite changed its color to black.
Legends around the Black Stone
The Black Stone is an Islamic relic, dating according to Muslim tradition, from the time of Adam and Eve. It fell from the sky to tell Adam and Eve where to build an altar. It has often been described as a meteorite and geologists who had a chance to get close enough to see it well all agree that the best bet is that it is a meteorite. (Also, according Rudolf Steiner it is a meteorite). Muslims believe that the stone was originally pure and sparkling white but she became black because of the human sins.
The altar of Adam and stone reportedly then disappeared during the flood of Noah. According to Tabari (Ta’ ta’rikh, I, 193-194), the Kaaba, yet located in a low background, escapes the flood (Sura LIV – Cor. VI, 6) as well as the sunken black stone: the construction and the black stone are “heard in heaven”. Ibrahim would have then found it on the original site of the altar of Adam during a revelation from the Archangel Gabriel. Ibrahim then ordered his son Ismaël, who was an ancestor of Muhammad, to build a new temple, the Kaaba, to accommodate the stone.
It was placed intact into the wall of the Kaaba by the Prophet Muhammad in 605, five years before his first revelation.
The red-haired Egyptian, al-Hakim al’Ubaidi broke it into several fragments, that since have been cemented in a silver frame using silver nails, set into the flank of the Kaaba.
Its appearance is that of a black rock with reddish hues of about 30 cm in diameter whose surface has been polished by the hands and lips of millions of pilgrims.
In imitation of the Prophet Mohammed, people try to reproduce the kiss which the stone received on the part of Mohammed. If they cannot reach it, pilgrims must then settle to reach right out to the Stone on one of their their seven rotations around the Kaaba.
Mohammed solves a dispute over lifting the black stone into position at the Kaaba. The legends tell how, when Mohammed was still a young man, the Kaaba was being rebuilt and a dispute arose between the various clans in Mecca over who had the right rededicate the black stone. (The Kaaba was at that time still a polytheistic shrine, this being many centuries before Islam was founded.) Mohammed resolved the argument by placing the stone on a cloth and having members of each clan lift the cloth together, raising the black stone into place cooperatively. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami’ al-Tawarikh (literally “Compendium of Chronicles” but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D. Now in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland. Please, notice that in early days, it was not forbidden (haram) to portrait humans or even the prophet himself.
Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt after the ouster of his processor President Morsi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (ca. 1942 – 20 October 2011) in Mecca, kissing the Black Stone, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then as the “Brotherly Leader” of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. Initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, he came to rule as a dictator and according to his own “Third International Theory” before embracing Pan-Africanism.
Kissing the Black Stone by the faithful is like kissing the hand of Allah
According to tradition, Adam first built the Kaaba after the expulsion from paradise, but the Kabaa did not survive the floods. So, Abraham built it with his son Ishmael, and they put in the corner the Black Stone brought by Archangel Gabriel – one of the archangels in both the Christian, Judaic and Islamic tradition. But also, Gabriel is the messenger of Allah and dictated Mohammed, as God’s last messenger or prophet the Koran. Even Ptolemy wrote that in the second century BC the Kaaba was a small shrine. But that Muhammad had made it a place of worship of Allah ordered the destruction of the other 360 tribal idols, but to save the black stone. The Black Stone is the greatest sanctity of Islam and the purpose of pilgrimage for millions of followers; as it was for pagan pilgrims during centuries before the prophet and his revelations by Archangel Gabriel.
Mohammed receiving his first revelation from the Archangel Gabriel. Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami’ al-Tawarikh (literally “Compendium of Chronicles” but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D. Now in the collection of the Edinburgh University Library, Scotland.
ISIS and the Black Stone:
ISIS issued a press release on July 1st, 2014, expressing a next step in their proclaimed jihadist ideology.
ISIS announced that their battle plan is to destroy the Kaaba in Mecca. That rock, the Hajar al-Aswad or Black Stone, is located within a silver shroud on a corner of the Kaaba in Mecca (seen in the image above) is what is considered to be the centerpiece of idolatrous worship. The stone is a black meteorite, and an icon they want to destroy as soon as possible, as soon as their new Islamic Caliphate conquers Saudi Arabia. The Kaaba and the black rock pre-date the establishment of Islam; they were both were part of the pagan religion in Arabia prior to the establishment of Islam.
An ISIS spokesman by the name of Abu Turab al-Mugadassi has been quoted as saying: “If Allah wills, we will kill those who worship stones in Mecca and destroy the Kaaba. People go to Mecca to touch the stone, not for Allah.” During the Islamic pilgrimage, the hajj, to Mecca, Muslims regularly stampede each other in an attempt to merely touch or kiss the black stone. That means it’s pretty important to them. ISIS has different plans for treating it.
Therefore, the coordinated bomb attack at three locations at the same time is a hallmark of ISIS, and more attack can be expected on the Kabaa in Mecca. ISIS seems to be consequent in their philosophy of fighting infidels and apostates who adore pre-Islamic objects like the black stone as part of the Kabaa; and destroy them.
The mosque is the burial place of the Prophet Mohammed and Medina the holiest city in Islam after Mecca. ISIS conducted three massive explosions close to the burial place of the prophet during Ramadan, July 5th, 2016
The mosque in Medina is the burial place of the Prophet Mohammed and as such the holiest city in Islam after Mecca. ISIS conducted three massive explosions close to the burial place of the prophet during Ramadan, July 5th, 2016 and warned that next year the Kabaa in Mecca will be attacked as worshipping a stone from ancient, pre-Islam times is blasphemy
Medina in flames: who ever would have expected that; a bomb attack by a devout Muslim? (during Ramadan July 5th2016)
Inside the Ka’ba:
This is what the Kaaba looks like inside now. However, it has been restored many times over the last 1500 years
So this is not what it looked like when the prophet (before he had become a prophet) restored it.
At the time Mohammed was alive, it is basically a house. It used to be filled with idolatry but when the prophet entered it, he took out the idols and walls were painted with pagan gods as well as images of Abraham and Mary and Jesus. At first, the three images were left there, but later, they were all erased.
These testimonies prove that the Kaaba was used as a house and/or place of worship long before the Prophet was born, and that the images of humans like Abraham and Mary and Jesus were allowed by the prophet himself. Also, what is often played down is the fact that the first wife of Mohammed was a Christian.
Nowadays, the Kabaa can only be entered by a happy few, like members of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. These pictures are a rarity therefore.
The history and the architecture of the Kaaba were corrected several times through the centuries to fit the rulers. The Kaaba is meant to link all Muslims. It also connects the believers to a glorious and not-so-glorious past.
Shortly after the prophet moved from Mecca to Medina in 622, Mohammed became the effective ruler of the town but opponents emerged in the Jewish and wider communities. Poets wrote lampoons and disrespectful verses. Muhammad had them killed. Not just poets, but almost anyone who disagreed with him and his revelations.
In 624, for example, a Jewish poet named Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf wrote verses condemning the killing of notables from Mecca. He later became a one-man Charlie Hebdo, writing cartoon-like and erotic verses about Muslim women. One could probably say that Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf was one of the very first cartoonists of his time. Mohammad took offense and instructed one of his companions, Mohammad ibn Maslama, to assassinate Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf. When Ibn Maslama expressed great concerns about having to lie to Ka’b in order to trick him into going with him, Muhammad told him that lying is permissible for such purposes. Ibn Maslama and some other Muslims went out with Ka’b under false pretenses and murdered him.
Ka’b ibn al-Ahraf was not Mohammad’s only victim. The poets Asma’ bint Marwan (a woman), Abu Afak, and Al-Nadir ibn al-Harith, and Abu Rafi’ ibn Abi Al-Huqaiq were all assassinated in the same year for the similar offences of mockery. In the next few years, several other poets were killed, such as Abdullah ibn Zib’ari, Al-Harith bin al-Talatil, Hubayra, Ka’b ibn Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulama, and Huwayrith ibn Nafidh. Abdullah bin Khatal and two of his slave girls were murdered for having recited poems insulting the Prophet. There is a list in WikiIslam of 43 people — as well as all the men from the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza — who were killed on Muhammad’s orders or whose murders were sanctioned specifically by the Prophet.
Unfortunately, the beginning of Islam as a religion has been written with blood: the killing of opponents, ordered by the prophet himself, and several bloody succession wars thereafter.
What is a meteorite?
A meteor streaks across the sky in eastern Russia in this picture released by the Russian Emergency Ministry. Hundreds were injured in the early morning blast, mostly from falling glass shattered by the shock wave. Credit: Russian Emergency Ministry
The terms asteroid, meteor, meteorite and meteoroid get tossed around recklessly, especially when two of them threaten the Earth on the same day.
An asteroid is a rocky object in space that’s smaller than a planet — they’re sometimes called minor planets or planetoids, according to NASA. Other sources refer to them loosely as “space debris,” or leftover fragments from the formation of the solar system.
Pictures of “falling Stars” we all have seen at night (especially during the month of August)
There are millions of asteroids orbiting the sun, some 750,000 of which are found in the asteroid belt, a vast ring of asteroids located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids can be as large as hundreds of kilometers wide: The asteroid Ceres, sometimes referred to as a dwarf planet, is 940 km (584 miles) wide.
The Lyrids occur every year, and such meteor showers happen when Earth passes through the debris left behind by periodic comets, such as Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), as they orbit the sun. The Lyrid meteor shower is considered to be one of the oldest meteor showers. Records show that Chinese astronomers observed the Lyrids in 687 BC, noting in the historical Chinese document “The Chronicle of Zuo” that “at midnight, stars fell down like rain.”
Asteroids have no atmosphere, but many are large enough to exert a gravitational pull — some, in fact, have one or two companion moons, or they form binary systems, in which two similarly sized asteroids orbit each other.
Scientists are eager to study asteroids because they reveal so much information about the early formation of our solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.
A meteor is an asteroid or other object that burns and vaporizes upon entry into the earth’s atmosphere; meteors are commonly known as “shooting stars.” If a meteor survives the plunge through the atmosphere and lands on the surface, it’s known as a meteorite. Meteorites are usually categorized as iron or stony. As the name implies, iron meteorites are composed of about 90 percent iron; stony meteorites are made up of oxygen, iron, silicon, magnesium and other elements. Only when these objects enter the atmosphere are they referred to as meteors, like the meteor that was seen over Russia recently (see picture). Because that meteor exploded in the atmosphere, the resulting fireball is known as a bolide. Again, there’s no precise definition of a bolide — most astronomers understand a bolide as simply a very bright fireball.
Tutankhamun’s death mask
In June 2016, a report emerged that attributed the dagger buried with Pharaoh Tutankhamun to an iron meteorite, with similar proportions of metals (iron, nickel and cobalt) to a meteorite discovered near and named after Kharga Oasis. The dagger’s metal is from the same meteor shower. Meteorites were considered as messengers of God and the starry heavens.
Researchers from Milan Polytechnic, Pisa University, and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo studied the metal makeup of the iron knife using non-invasive, portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry.
“Meteoric iron is clearly indicated by the presence of a high percentage of nickel,” lead researcher Daniela Comelli of Milan Polytechnic told The Telegraph. “The nickel and cobalt ratio in the dagger blade is consistent with that of iron meteorites that have preserved the primitive chondritic ratio during planetary differentiation in the early solar system.”
The researchers said they identified the exact meteorite that was the source of metal for the blade. Comeli said her team examined all meteorites found within a radius of 2.000 km from the Red Sea. That narrowed the possibilities to 20 iron meteorites. Only one of those had levels of nickel and cobalt similar to Tut’s blade: a meteorite found near Mersa Matruh, Egyp, 16 years ago.
The finding suggests that the ancient Egyptians were aware in the 13th century B.C., about 2.000 years before Western culture that rare chunks of iron fell from the sky.
If Tutankhamun is the world’s best known pharaoh, it is largely because his tomb is among the best preserved, and his image and associated artifacts the most-exhibited.
5,398 items were found in the tomb, including a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, archery bows, a lotus chalice, food, wine, sandals, and fresh linen underwear. Howard Carter took 10 years to catalog the items. Recent analysis suggests a dagger recovered from the tomb had an iron blade made from a meteorite; study of artifacts of the time including other artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb could provide valuable insights into metalworking technologies round the Mediterranean at the time.
Throughout the ages, meteorites were venerated as sacred objects by different cultures and ancient civilizations. The spectacular fall of a meteorite, accompanied by light and sound phenomena, such as falling stars, smoke, thunder, and sonic booms, has always kindled the human imagination, evoking fear and awe in everyone who witnesses such an event. For obvious reasons, the remnants of these incidents, the actual meteorites, were often kept as sacred stones or objects of power. They were worshiped, and used in their respective religious ceremonies.
From Prehistoric Times to Ancient Egypt
Actually, several Native American tribes venerated pieces and fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, a giant iron meteorite that excavated Arizona’s famous Meteor Crater upon its impact about 50,000 years ago. Archaeological finds throughout the United States and Mexico, proved that Canyon Diablo fragments had been traded briskly centuries before Columbus reached the shores of the New World. The Winona meteorite was found in a stone cist in the prehistoric Elden pueblo, Arizona, in 1928. The circumstances of the find suggest that the builders of the pueblo had kept the meteorite as a sacred object after actually witnessing its fall. The tribes of the Clackamas in Oregon claim that they once worshiped the Willamette meteorite, one of the largest irons known, weighing about 15 tons. Prior to their hunting trips, the Clackamas dipped the heads of their arrows and lances into the water that had gathered in the large cavities of the iron – they were convinced that this ritual would harden their weapons and grant them success in their hunt.
Native tribes throughout the world venerated meteorites, and similar stories have been told from Greenland, Tibet, India, Mongolia, and Australia. Pure iron has always been rare and so there is little wonder that iron meteorites were especially coveted by ancient civilizations as raw material for cultic knives and weapons in times prior to the Iron Age. Such knives and daggers have been recovered from the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs, from Mesopotamian sanctuaries, and from the graves of the leaders of the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca, in both Americas.
From Pharaonian Egypt to Ancient Greece and Rome to Mecca
The ancient civilizations of the occident are no exception, and there are several examples of the worship of meteorites in both Pharaonian as in Greco-Roman tradition. Mircea Eliade, an expert in religious history, claims that the Palladion of Troy, the Artemis of Ephesos, as well as the Cone of Elagabalus in Emesa, were actually meteorites – stones that had fallen from the sky, objects from heaven, believed to contain supernatural powers. Richard Norton mentions the sacred stone in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, a rock that was said to have been thrown to Earth by the Supreme Being, Kronos, marking the “omphalos”, the navel of the world. The Roman historian, Titus Livius, tells the story of the meteorite of Pessinunt, Phrygia, a conical object known as the Needle of Cybele, the goddess of fertility. After the Romans had conquered Phrygia, the meteorite was conveyed in a gigantic procession to Rome, where it was worshiped for another 500 years.
Even in the monotheistic religions of Judaeo-Christian tradition we find traces of an ancient meteorite cult. In the Hebrew language, meteorites were called “betyls”, an equivalent to the Greek “baitylia”, meaning “the residence of God”. In the Bible, we find a story where Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites, beds his head on such a betyl-stone in the desert. In his sleep, he has an impressive vision of a stairway to heaven leading directly to the throne of God. The story says that Jacob was full of awe when he awoke, and that he built a temple around that stone. However, nothing of this temple has been preserved up to this day.
There is another famous example from the Middle East, but there is some dispute about whether the object of veneration is actually a meteorite or not. We are referring to the “Hadschar al Aswad”, the sacred “black stone”, to which all Moslems pay homage on their “Hadsch”, their pilgrimage to Mecca and the most important sanctuary of the Islam, the Kaaba. Each Moslem has the duty to make this pilgrimage once in his lifetime, to visit Mecca, and to walk around the Kaaba – a cubic building – seven times. Then, he has to pause at the southeast corner of the Kaaba to complete the ritual, touching or kissing the Hadschar, also known as “Yamin Allah”, meaning “the right hand of God”. Tradition says that this stone is a betyl, a meteorite that was given to Abraham by the Archangel Gabriel. That stone also played a most important role in the life of Mohammed who immured it into the wall at the southeast corner of the Kaaba.
The Hadsch is a rather strange ritual since Islam prohibits the worship and veneration of objects, but it seems that this tradition is much older than Islam itself. The Hadschar might be a true betyl, a real meteorite, since it is said to have a black crust and a light-gray interior. However, it might also represent a rather large Wabar pearl, a meteorite related impact glass that is found in central Saudi Arabia, not that far from Mecca. It’s a pity that scientists haven’t solved the mystery surrounding this sacred stone, but for normal religious reasons it has not been allowed. Wouldn’t it be great to know that there is at least one ancient betyl left, and that it is still venerated after more than perhaps 5.000 years?
According to ancient Chinese culture, the fall of a meteorite onto Earth was an omen that the Emperor had not done a satisfactory job in leading his people, or that deaths or social instability are not far off.
The official Chinese media have reported the discovery of a 5.000-year-old meteorite that could explain the death of the man celebrated as the mythical founder of the Chinese nation, the Yellow Emperor.
According to historical records, the Yellow Emperor Huangdi died in a cataclysmic shattering of the land by meteorites – and local legends speak of nine dragons breaking up the ancient town of Huangling.
Now the China Daily reports that the remains of a meteorite found in north-western China’s Shaanxi province could explain those stories.
The Yellow Emperor is said to have reigned from 2.697 BC. Although his status is part-mythical, thousands of Chinese flock to a mausoleum erected in his memory to pay their respects.
Legend has it that the Yellow Emperor invented the cart and the boat, while his wife discovered how to weave silk from silkworms.
Elisabeth Vreede (* 16 July 1879 in The Hague; † 31 August 1943 in Ascona) was a Dutch mathematician, astronomer, specialist in meteorites, and Anthroposophist.