Sacred Scrolls

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A portion of the Sacred Scrolls, specifically, a portion of the Book of Pythia.

The Sacred Scrolls are a set of writings the form the basis of Colonial religion, a polytheistic faith resembling the legends of ancient Greece. The scrolls record much of the alleged history of humanity, including life on Kobol before the great exodus, and the legend of Earth. Portions of the scrolls are used in religious ceremonies, such as the Service of the Dead (Miniseries, Act of Contrition).

Most notable among the Sacred Scrolls is the Book of Pythia, also referred to as the Pythian Prophecy. Written 3,600 years ago by the oracle Pythia, they are believed by some to foretell the current exodus from the Twelve Colonies.

Contents

The contents of the Sacred Scrolls have only been revealed to us in glimpses, through brief quotes, paraphrases and explanations throughout the series. This section serves to catalog those snippets, and is followed by more detailed analysis.

The Book of Pythia

Roslin: Who is Pythia?
Elosha: One of the oracles in the Sacred Scrolls. 3,600 years ago. Pythia wrote about the exile and rebirth of the human race. (The Hand of God)

The Cycle of Time

Leoben: "All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again." (Flesh and Bone)
Six: "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again." (The Hand of God)
Roslin: If you believe in the gods, then you believe in the cycle of time that we are all playing our parts in a story that is told again, and again, and again throughout eternity. (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I)

The Dying Leader

Elosha: "And the lords anointed a leader to guide the Caravan of the Heavens to their new homeland." (The Hand of God)
Elosha: She also wrote that the new leader suffered a wasting disease and would not live to enter the new land. (The Hand of God)
Roslin: The scriptures tell us a dying leader lead humanity to the promised land. (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I)

A Vision of Serpents

Elosha: "And unto the leader they gave a vision of serpents numbering two and ten, as a sign of things to come." (The Hand of God)

The Serpents Lead the People Into Battle?

Six: "Led by serpents numbering two and ten..." (fragment) (The Hand of God)

A Confrontation at the Home of the Gods

Six: "Though the outcome favored the few, it led to a confrontation at the home of the gods." (The Hand of God)

The Lower Demon

Elosha: The scrolls of Pythia do speak of a lower demon, who helped the people in a time of crisis. (Home, Part I)

The Blaze and the High Road

Elosha: "And the blaze pursued them, and the people of Kobol had a choice. To board the great ship, or take the high road through the rocky ridge."
Valerii (continuing): "And the body of each tribe's leader was offered to the gods in the tomb of Athena." And the great ship was the galleon that departed from here, where we're standing. And it took the founders of the thirteen colonies to their destiny. And those that didn't board the galleon took the high road, a rocky ridge that lead to the tomb. (Home, Part I)
Elosha: The path is supposed to be marked by gravestones. (Home, Part I)

The Gates of Hera

Valerii: That's the spot where your god supposedly stood and watched Athena throw herself down onto the rocks below, out of despair over the Exodus of the thirteen tribes. Athena's tomb, whoever or whatever she really was, is probably up there. (Home, Part II)

The Arrow of Apollo

Roslin: "And the Arrow of Apollo will open the Tomb of Athena." (Home, Part II)
Elosha: The scriptures tell us that Kobol points the way to Earth. (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I)
Roslin: According to the scriptures, if we had the arrow of Apollo we could take it down to Kobol and we could use it to open the tomb of Athena and find our way to Earth. (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I)

Kobol and the Blood Price

Adama: "And Zeus warned the leaders of the twelve tribes that any return to Kobol would exact a price in blood." (Home, Part II)

History

Pre-Exodus

Elosha: This place is Kobol... birthplace of mankind, where the gods and men lived in paradise until the exodus of the thirteen tribes. (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I)

The Exodus

Elosha: How old are the ruins?
Billy Keikeya: Well, we won't know for sure until we send a ground team, but the initial estimates have it on the order of approximately 2,000 years.
Elosha: That's around the time the thirteen tribes first left Kobol. (Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I)

The Thirteenth Tribe on Earth

Starbuck: The scriptures say that when the thirteenth tribe landed on Earth, they looked up into the heavens and they saw their twelve brothers. (Home, Part II)

Other verses from the Sacred Scrolls

  • Adama: "Life here began out there." These are the first words of the Sacred Scrolls… (Miniseries)
  • During a Salt Line Ceremony on Galactica: "Their enemies will divide them. Their colonies broken in the fiery chasm of space. Their shining days renounced by a multitude of dark sacrifices. Yet still they will remain always together" (Exodus, Part I).

Sayings

Commander Adama: "The gods shall lift those who lift each other." (Home, Part II)
Cavil: "The gods lift up those who lift each other." (Lay Down Your Burdens, Part I)
Duck: "The gods help those who help themselves." (The Resistance)

These sayings are similar to the Algernon Sydney quote "God helps those who help themselves".

Notes

  • The Cycle of Time is apparently a key component of Colonial theology. The notion of a circular progression of time (also known as eternal return or eternal recurrence) is foreign to the ancient Greek religion of which Colonial religion are largely based, but it is a common theme in other religions. Some Hindus believe in an endless cycle of ages called Yugas. The ancient Maya people, as well as the Incas and Aztecs also believed in the circular nature of time. In philosophy, the Stoics, a movement originating in ancient Greece, held the doctrine. In the nineteenth century, the doctrine appears in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche as a method of life-affirmation.
  • The book of Pythia, which contains or is identical to the Pythian Prophecy, was written 1,600 years before the exodus of the thirteen tribes from Kobol, and yet it apparently contains a detailed narrative of the events of the Exodus, and continues to be interpreted as a source of prophecy 2,000 years after its prophecies have (apparently) already been fulfilled. We may thus interpret the entire text as a prophecy, since the events it describes can be firmly dated to a point well after its text was written.

Analysis

Correspondences

Assuming the events following the Fall of the Twelve Colonies are a repetition of the events predicted by Pythia, and which came to pass centuries later, we can make use of the prophecy by first constructing a coherent historical narrative from them and then looking for correspondences with the events of the series.

The "One Exodus" Interpretation

This interpretation assumes that the timeline is recurring on a scale of 1,600 to 2,000 years, and the exodus from Kobol is directly parellel to the exodus from the Twelve Colonies. It also makes some correspondences in addition to those above:

  • The "Blaze" identified by Sharon Valerii is an earlier parallel to the cylon attack. The hostile force is the "jealous God", the Lord of Kobol that tried to elevate himself over the others.
  • The Home of the Gods is Kobol, and the people of Kobol are the Twelve Colonies, in a somewhat metaphorical sense.

The timeline would procede thus:

  1. The people of Kobol lived in divine utopia with their gods.
  2. A hostile force - of which "the blaze" and the "lower demon" were parts - moves against the people of Kobol.
  3. The gods appoint a leader afflicted with a wasting disease to lead a "caravan of the heavens".
  4. The leader, with the aid of twelve "serpents", wins a perilous battle.
  5. The people make their way to the "home of the gods".
  6. Athena despairs and commits suicide.
  7. The leaders of the people are taken to the Tomb of Athena to be sacrificed to the remaining gods.
  8. The body of the people depart in a "galleon" for the colonies.
  9. Instructions are left to open the Tomb of Athena.
  10. Zeus warns against a return to Kobol.
  11. The twelve tribes settle on the Twelve Colonies. The thirteenth tribe settles on Earth.

Questions and Predictions

  • Can Earth be at once the "promised land" in this iteration and the last?
  • Can we expect the deaths of the leaders of the tribes (the Quorum of Twelve?) to propitiate the Gods?

This history is admittedly not especially coherent, but suggests the possibility of predicting at least some unfulfilled pieces of scripture. Another interpretation which deals with the repetition of historical events on a larger scale is offered below.

The "Three Exoduses" Interpretation

This interpretation does not assume that the flight from the Twelve Colonies mirror the original exodus from Kobol. Instead, it assumes that these two exoduses are part of the same event-continuum and posits a third, implied, exodus. Like the "One Exodus" interpretation, this one assumes that Pythia's prophecies have and will come true. Below is the proposed order of events for Pythia's prophecies:

  1. The people of Kobol live in divine utopia with their Gods.
  2. The "blaze" moves against the people of Kobol.
  3. The body of the people depart in a "galleon" for the colonies (the four inset items are roughly concurrent).
    • Athena despairs and commits suicide.
    • The leaders of the people are taken to the Tomb of Athena to be sacrificed to the remaining gods.
    • Instructions are left to open the Tomb of Athena.
    • Zeus warns against a return to Kobol.
  4. The twelve tribes settle on the Twelve Colonies. The thirteenth tribe settles on Earth.
  5. The Cylons decimate the Twelve Colonies (Whether this is prophesied is unknown, but this clearly happened).
  6. The gods appoint a leader afflicted with a wasting disease to lead a "caravan of the heavens".
  7. The leader, with the aid of twelve "serpents", wins a perilous battle.
  8. The people make their way to the "home of the gods".
  9. A "lower demon" helps the people of Kobol find the Tomb of Athena.

Note, too, that this is only a part of the story according to the "Three Exoduses" interpretation. It assumes that passages not yet revealed in the series outline (however vaguely) the finding of Earth and some time spent there, and then an event that spurs a migration back to Kobol. In this interpretation, the people of Kobol are actually the remnants of the Twelve Colonies, both their descendants and their ancestors. From there, the cycle starts again. The cycle is much longer in this interpretation (roughly 4,000 years, as opposed to roughly 1,600-2,000 years)

It is helpful to think of no particular part as the beginning. This is how the pictures of the constellations (only visible from Earth) would be accessible to the people of Kobol "before" any of them had been to Earth. It also explains how the Scrolls can speak about the fate of the Thirteenth Colony and yet be in the possession of people from the Twelve Colonies. In fact, when Pythia was writing about the events in the show, she might have been recording fairly-recent history, rather that far-future prophesy. The vagueness would be mostly due to nearly 4,000 years of linguistic drift, rather than due to the mists of prophecy.

Basically, this interpretation asserts a roughly 3,600-4,000 year cycle which can be illustrated by this crude flow-chart:<br\> Kobol > Colonies, Colonies > Earth, Earth > Kobol


One description of this theory is as follows:

According to the ancient scriptures of Pythia (which say: “All this has happened before. All this will happen again.”), humanity undergoes a cycle of civilisation, in which humanity advances technologically, but from this seed of advancement and power grows evil and corruption that sows humanities own roots of destruction. Pythia tells how the civilisation of humanity periodically rises and falls, and often has to start over again.

When this need arises, the remnants of the civilisation of the established 12 tribes of humanity might have to return to the last ancestral home of their forefathers, in order to locate the directions to the 13th tribe which left Kobol before the other 12 tribes, which could be seen as a backup pocket of humanity to be located and germinated technologically if the main civilisation should fall.

This 13th pocket of humanity, (Earth), probably develops much slower technologically than the rest of their brother tribes, and so once found by the remnants of the other fallen 12 tribes (the Fleet) would probably see these spaceships, technologies and the people aboard them as superhuman, godlike even.

As in history, when civilisations accelerate too fast in technology, they can become unstable, and dangerous, paranoid with conflicting nations or even within themselves, and so the fleet (those from the “caravan of the heavens”), not wanting to cause panic and deterioration of Earth's society, would probably call upon Earth’s religious beliefs system to explain their presence and technology.

Those from the space fleet would declare to the people of Earth that yes, they are indeed the gods the people of Earth have been worshipping, (which would be the same as the fleet's too, since the belief systems stem from the same root), and that they (the Fleet), who would probably call themselves Lords not gods, have come to take the people of earth to live in harmony with them, to the land of the gods.

At some point, the fleet would realise how this cyclic order of civilisation occurs, and their part in it, and so the fleet would take the last pocket of humanity with them to start live elsewhere, on a planet somewhere distant from earth, rich in natural resources to be potentially exploited and mined later, which leaders of the Fleet’s Quorum of Twelve (having to call themselves “Lords”) would call Kobol. The Lords of Kobol take them there to rekindle the civilisation (in the eyes of the remnants of the previous 12 tribes), and in the eyes of the people of the 13th tribes, to live in the city and land of the gods.

In this new land, a few cities would be first built by the Lords of Kobol for the people of earth to live in, and the advanced technology of the fleet could be kept out of reach from the main population of the new planet of Kobol until a later time. Maybe one ship would be situated at the top of a mountain, possibly called Olympus, (keeping with religious doctrine as the home of the gods) as a link between the primitive civilisation on the planet surface and the ships still in the planets orbit protecting the planet.

No doubt some people higher up in the old Earth’s (new Kobolian’s) society (politicians, possibly believers in faith), would be told the truth, to integrate Earth’s leaders in the affairs of running the planet and developing technology publicly on Kobol. Also, the remnants of at least the civilians from the old fleet would wish to leave the fleets’ ships and live with the new budding civilisation, emerging in the new civilisation as a new set of 12 tribes which people from earth would integrate themselves into, continuing the cycle of the civilisation of the tribes of Kobol. Eventually, as the civilisations structure, political cohesion and publicly known technology increases on Kobol, more and more power would get relinquished to the new leaders of the 12 tribes on Kobol, and less power is held by the old leaders (Lords of Kobol), seated at Olympus. Technology would increase on Kobol to a point where by it’s possible once again for public space exploration.

In terms of what the Lords of Kobol have now become, at this stage in Kobol’s development, they would have almost died out as a race of humans, having integrated into Kobol’s new civilisation of 12 tribes, and would have dismantled all of the ships and technological facilities they didn’t need any more (like the old Fleet) as to hide their true nature from the budding new tribes. They would have withdrawn from society almost, communicating through trusted religious and political tribe leaders, and as a community would hold a skeleton command, guiding the tribes until they are ready once again to leave Kobol and control their own destiny.

The Lords of Kobol, once their new growing civilisation of 12 tribes is ready, would make preparations to carry on the cycle of demographic movement and would secretly (hidden from the public knowledge of Kobol) assemble a 13th tribe, which contained a diverse selection of people from all the 12 tribes in Kobol. The Lords of Kobol would take this small, backup pocket civilisation to another safe, habitable planet, settle them there, plot 12 new constellations from the sky seen from that planet to use as a clue as to how to get to this pocket civilisation from Kobol, should the need ever arise to find them. The Lords of Kobol would leave a recognisable astronomical phenomenon amongst the clues that would be recognised easily by a well travelled space race, to point them in the right direction to Earth.

At the same time, the Lords of Kobol would make some reason for their children civilisation to have to leave from Kobol. This would be either a natural disaster or something else like stressing to the new civilisation of tribes that it is time they found their own place in the galaxy, and this would lead the now established new 12 tribes of Kobol to start making preparations for an exodus to a new land, either found by the Lords of Kobol or themselves. Some of the community of people descended and living still with the Lords of Kobol might not want this cycle to continue, might want the people of Kobol to know the truth, which might instigate conflict amongst the “gods”, and this war might trigger the 12 tribes to leave of their own accord.

The people of Kobol would have been kept naive to the Lords of Kobol’s true identity (as that of a previous race of colonies of Kobol), but would have advanced by this point to an understanding of the technology of space travel. The new tribes are instructed/ would have each incorporated patterns (made from the constellations seen as from Earth) into each of the new 12 tribes’ flags (as a hidden clue unknown to most in the tribes) born from the 12 tribes of Kobol, as they leave Kobol to spread the wings of a new civilisation of humanity in the galaxy.

What remains of the race of the Lords of Kobol? One can only speculate. They would probably have dissolved completely, integrating themselves fully into the Twelve Colonies setting out from Kobol, or followed them, keeping a distance but developing so far ahead technologically as to be able to communicate unconsciously with people in the new colonies, through thought somehow. It would explain how prominent figures in both series were able to know events and insights which are unexplainable otherwise, but the only way of knowing what happened is to wait and see.

The Form of the Scrolls

The Sacred Scrolls have been seen as an actual, ornate scroll (similar to a torah, as shown in the Miniseries), as well as a book (Both Adama and Roslin read what appear to be identically-created books in "Home, Part II").

The total volume of the Scrolls has not been revealed, so it is possible (albeit improbable) that the scroll that Elosha holds in the Miniseries as she swears in President Roslin and holds during the Service for the Dead may make up only a portion of the total texts, or key readings from the works. A shortened volume may not be different from the Roman Catholic Church's use of missals: A specialized volume containing prayers and readings specific to a celebrant's use during temple ceremonies, Services for the Dead, weddings, dedication ceremonies and the like.

Much of the Scrolls appear to be handwritten. While the technology of the Twelve Colonies obviously support electronic printing and reproduction, it may be that the most authentic copies of the sacred texts are either authentic reproductions from a handwritten copy, or genuine handwritten copies. This practice may be for reasons of authenticity, custom, or aesthetics. The practice is similar to the work and purposes of the scribes before the invention of the printing press in real-Earth history. For comparison, an extreme example of the tradition of handwritten sacred texts in real-Earth history are the sefer Torahs.

The Service of the Dead

The final rites to the dead offered by Elosha at the end of the of the Miniseries are Sanskrit verses from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad. Roughly translated, the verse says, "Lead us from Falsehood to Truth, from Darkness to Light, from Death to Immortality."

General Questions

  • Are the Lords of Kobol still an agentive force in this iteration of the cycle?
  • Who were the Lords of Kobol? The Caprica Valerii does not deny their existence, and the Tomb of Athena strongly attests to her life and death, but she does not believe they were gods. They were evidently distraught at the calamity which befell their people. Who was responsible for it, and why were the gods powerless to intervene?
  • Which god was the "jealous god" that sought to be raised above the others? Is he the same person as the Cylon's one true god?
  • Was Kobol the original home of the Lords of Kobol, or did they originate from some other place?
  • Did the people of the Colonies leave Kobol with the assistance of the gods, or under their own power? That is, did the tribes build the Galleon or other ships, or were they furnished by the gods?
  • What was the nature of the "Galleon?" Was it a large sublight colony ship? Did it have an FTL drive?
  • If Roslin is now cured of cancer, can she still be the leader of the Pythian prophecy?
    • Official sources suggested that Roslin's cancer cure in "Epiphanies" may not necessarily be a permanent matter, so the prophecy may still hold true.
  • Is it possible that the dying leader may be referring to someone besides Roslin? It could be Admiral Adama as at the beginning of the Miniseries, they displayed a man who was "wasting away" before the Cylons attacked. He could be possibily another route for the writers to go through as having Adama not being able to enter the land that he and Roslin are leading the fleet to.
  • In "The Eye of Jupiter", the Hybrid is looking directly at Baltar while repeating the words "sins revealed... only to the chosen one", refering to. Plus, he did much of the work mapping out the location of the Lion's Head Nebula. Could this indicate that Baltar may be actually responsible for showing the path to Earth, thus fulfilling the role of "the leader"? Given his situation of being distrusted and hated by both cylon and human, it would appear unlikely that he would survive to reach earth.
  • Since the entire Number Three line has been boxed, could one or all of the Threes be considered "dying leaders"? Is it possible that they, and not Roslin, will be instrumental in leading the humans as well as the Cylons to Earth?