The Noble Nabateans

Before Alexander the Great conquered and established Greek control over surrounding countries (332 B.C.), and trade routes were established to connect many parts of the region from Persia to Egypt to Greece, a thriving new civilization emerged within the region of ancient Edom and Median. This civilization is recorded in history as that of the Nabateans.

The Nabateans were originally a nomadic bedouin group -  a result of coalition of Arab tribes under the leadership of the tribe of Khedar. Genesis 25:13-16, implies that Khedar belong to the tribes of Ismael.

The earliest known reference to the Nabateans as a group of people is dated to 647 BC, among the list of the enemies of the last great Assyrian king Ashurbanipa.

Eventually, the Nabateans became known as exceptionally skilled and shrewd traders, facilitating commerce between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. They traded such goods as spices, incense, gold, animals, iron, copper, sugar, medicines, ivory, perfumes and fabrics, just to name a few.

The Nabateans profited for a while from their incorporation into the trade routes of the Roman Near East, and Petra may have grown to house 20,000-30,000 people during its heyday. However, commerce became less profitable to the Nabateans with the shift of trade routes to Palmyra in Syria and the expansion of seaborne trade around the Arabian peninsula. 

Probably during the fourth century CE, the Nabateans left their capital at Petra. No one really knows why. It seems that the withdrawal was an unhurried and organized process, as very few silver coins or valuable possessions have been unearthed at Petra.

The city of Petra was annexed by the Romans in AD 106 and ultimately declined with the fall of the Roman Empire.  By the time of the conversion of the Arabs of the area to Islam in the seventh century it was abandoned altogether.  In the twelfth century, Crusaders from European countries such as France and England conquered Jerusalem and set up a Christian kingdom in the region.  In order to protect Christian interests in the region, various orders of knights were founded and one of these, the Knights Templar, briefly occupied the ruined city of Petra. It is also known that they were obssessed with searching for treasures of the past, especially for the Lost Ark.

Diodorus Siculusí (a Greek historian) gives an account of the Nabateans:

“The Arabs love freedom; they live under the open sky, and have chosen a country without sources and rivers. They neither grow corn or trees, they do not drink wine, and they build no houses. Infringers are punished with death. Some tribes have camels, others - small cattle".

''One tribe, the Nabateans, with only 10,000 men, is famous for its riches. They sell incense, myrrh and other spices to the Mediterranean countries, and get these merchandises from Arabia Felix in the South. Their country, without water, is impenetrable to enemies, but the Nabateans have cisterns to collect rainwater in a place which is known only to the inhabitants of the country. Their animals are watered every three days to accustom them to a flight throughout a waterless country. They eat meat and drink milk, and also pepper and a resin diluted with water."

Much of what is now known about the Nabatean culture comes from the writings of the Roman scholar Strabo (a historian, geographer and philosopher, mostly famous for his 17-volume work Geographica, which presented a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era). 

He recorded that the Nabatean community was governed by a Royal family, although a strong spirit of democracy prevailed. According to him there were no slaves in Nabatean society, and all members had a share of work duties.

This is Strabo's account of the Nabateans: 

''The houses are sumptuous and of stone. The cities are without walls on account of the country’s peace [which prevails among them]. A great part of the country is fertile, and produces everything except the oil of olives; [instead of it] the oil of sesame is used. The sheep have white fleeces, their oxen are large; but the country produces no horses. Camels are the substitute for horses, and perform the [same kind of] labor. They wear no tunics, but have a girdle about the loins, and walk abroad in sandals. The dress of the kings is the same, but the color is purple''.

''Some of their merchandise is imported into the country. Others are not altogether imports, especially as some articles are native products, such as gold and silver, and many of the aromatics; but brass and iron, purple garments,  saffron, and white cinnamon, pieces of sculpture, paintings, statues, are not to be procured in the country''.

''They look upon the bodies of the dead as no better than dung. According to the words of Heracleitus: "dead bodies are cast out as dung", wherefore they bury even their kings beside dung-heaps. They worship the sun, and construct an altar on top of a house, pouring out libations and burning frankincense upon it every day''.

''The Nabateans are prudent, and fond of accumulating property. The community would fine a person who has diminished his substance, and confers honours on him who has increased it. They have slaves, and are served for the most part by their relations, or by one another, or each person is his own servant; and this custom extends even to their kings. They eat their meals in companies consisting of thirteen persons, each party being attended by two musicians. But the king provides much entertainment in great buildings. No one drinks more than eleven [appointed] cupfuls, from separate cups, each of gold''. (Their contracts with traders were done in Aramaic).

 The Petra area holds the memory of many past sacred rites and ceremonies. The energy present at Petra is quite strong which can easily evoke a strong emotional response among many people.

The shapes carved for the Nabatean deity are rectangular geometric in shape. The Golden Mean Rectangle has been found and understood in temples and  statues in Egypt. The masters of the Italian Renaissance, including Fra Angelico, Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci used its principles in their work.

(Left) A big geometric rock carving along the Siq in Petra, dedicated to the Nabatean deity Al Uzza.

The existence of such sacred shapes and other geometries and symbols implies that the Nabatean religion was an Esoteric one. Esoterically the two geometric shapes represent the earth “Divine” energies and powers. The two Nabatean geometric shapes can be seen as having and representing the Golden proportion.

(left) The relief of the Khaznah or treasury was carved around ''1st A.D''. The Nabatean carving showing a female figure with the sheaf of grain. Esoterically  the female with the sheaf of grain symbolizes the  androgynous power, the equilibrium.

(Up) The concept of the vase (Urn) is of religious significance. The vase of libations is found  in all the regions of the Fertile Crescent, and it is recognized as a mystic vase for the Rite of Passage rituals. The 'Rite of Passage' involved certain sacred acts that engendered religious feeling. The initiates usually consumed the Drink. These rites in Greece were called Elysian rites.

(Left) The Nabatean Chalice or Grail Cup carving on the Treasury.  The Grail esotericly represents the Sacred Blood. This is the pure Melchizedek -Abrahamic genetic factor which the Nabateans were proud of.

(Right) Esoterically the Lion has always been considered as a symbol of cosmic Fire, that fire force which pulsates throughout the universe and is the hidden life of MINERAL, PLANT, ANIMAL, and MAN. Thus the half Lion half man or woman represents  initiation by fire.

It was believed that once a person is in control of this fire force, one enters a life of harmlessness and purity. In early times, when men lived in much closer attunement with the spiritual realms than at the present, it was necessary that the holy men religious or spiritual leaders become  initiate before being anointed to their high status.

(Left) The gigantic stone carving of the Snake monument is one of Petra’s most curious and enigmatic monument. The snake coiled on top of a cubical shape stone block,  represents the Kundalini energy or fire, which creates an increasing desire for knowledge and understanding.

 Esoterically, the Serpent symbolizes the Kundalini, the serpent fire of regeneration. In Hindu terminology it is the Goddess Kundalini. In Hebrew terminology it is Ashtoreth or Asherah or Astarte. In the Arabic tongue it is Al Uzza, the female who represented the fruitful or nourishing earth’s energies and powers. This lost wisdom may still be learned from today's Kundalini Yoga teachings.

It was false worship and misunderstanding that the serpent mystery was taken into deeper seclusion where its meaning might be revealed to the elect.

The Israelites Brazen Serpent of Moses stayed venerated in the Sanctuary, for hundreds of years after Moses. It is said that the Brazen Serpent was Treasured in the Hebrew Temples until King Hezekiah destroyed it because of the people were falsely worshiping it as an idol. So as Al Uzza which was venerated by the Arabs in Mecca until it was destroyed because the people were falsely worshiping it as an idol. 
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