Saturday’s developments

  • Another person leaves the Branch Davidian compound Saturday night.
  • Cult leader Vernon Howell’s talking about resolving the standoff in the “near time,” an FBI spokesman says.
  • Cult members were seen collecting rainwater in pots and pans, observers said.

Studying the sky

The FBI’s revelation that cult guru David Koresh may be basing a decision to surrender on upcoming astrological events led to much stargazing by those pondering when the siege will end.

Many scholars have speculated that Koresh, who has claimed to be Jesus Christ, may have plans involving Passover or Easter.

Passover does not begin, however, until the evening of April 5, on the first full moon following Saturday’s vernal equinox. The equinox heralds the start of spring, and traditionally is associated with the renewal of life, scholars say.

Baylor University astronomer Bill Adams said Branch Davidian cult members repeatedly have come to him expressing an interest in the new moon, which occurs on Tuesday and probably will first be visible that evening.

Also, today marks the beginning of the zodiac sign of Aries, which some astrologers associate with impatience, beginnings, and quick and positive action.

Norman Archer, chairman of the board of the of the General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists in Waco – which is not affiliated with Koresh’s Branch Davidian sect – said traditional Davidians believe the Bible year begins around the time of the personal equinox.

“Those are just natural things that happen every year, nothing unusual. He may use it as some kind of argument to end it (the siege),” Archer said. “But it has nothing to do with what we teach.”

Archer also said the motions of some planetary bodies are relevant to the seven seals harkening the end of the world to which Koresh repeatedly has referred.

By the way, Koresh’s birthday is August 17, 1959, marking him a Leo.

More ATF protests

For the third consecutive weekend, a band of protesters picketed the Waco Convention Center, carrying signs accusing ATF of violating the civil rights of Mount Carmel residents when they initiated the Feb. 28 raid.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.