Another big thank-you to hosts Darren G. and Graham D. for graciously inviting me over to the Grimerica Igloo on what turned out to be a snowy night in the wilds of the far north.
This was a special first-ever segment of a series entitled "Skies over Grimerica" in which we discuss some of the beautiful celestial phenomena you can see in the heavens each month.
In this inaugural episode, we discuss the motions of the earth, moon, stars and planets for the month of November (2017) -- as well as some of the ancient myths connected with constellations which will be visible this month, along with thoughts about their meaning for our lives today.
Here is a link to the video of our conversation, which was recorded earlier this evening (on November 01, 2017). As you will see, we brought in some visual aids from the excellent open-source planetarium app, Stellarium (available for free download at stellarium.org), as well as a brief look at the relative location of earth, sun and planets within the solar system using the interactive orrery app at "in the sky (dot org)."
That link to "in the sky" will take you to a solar system model which includes the path of Comet 55P / Tempel-Tuttle, a comet with a period of approximately 33 years. Our own orbital path around the sun will intersect with the track of Comet 55P / Tempel-Tuttle later this month (although the comet itself is far away right now). Even though the comet is nowhere near us right now, it leaves dust and debris each time it passes through, and when our orbit goes through that trail, we see this residue as a meteor shower -- in this case, the Leonid meteors which take place on or about the 17th of November each year (when we get to this part of our annual orbit).
During the show, we talked a little about some of the myths involving the constellations Perseus, Hercules, Aquila and Cygnus (mostly about the myth of Perseus and the Gorgons, and his quest to slay Medusa). The Perseus myth is explored in much greater depth in books I've written, especially in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (2016) and also in The Undying Stars (2014).
Due to limitations of time, we didn't get to all the constellations that you can see this month, or to all of the myths associated with them. A few other important myths associated with the constellation Perseus and surrounding constellations, which are covered in previous posts, include the story of Balaam and the Ass (in the book of Judges in the Hebrew Scriptures), and the story of King Midas (in the myths of ancient Greece), among many others.
The nearby celestial figure of the Great Square of Pegasus was also pointed out in the show, but we didn't have time to get into all of the myths associated with this important feature (which you should be able to find fairly easily in the night sky during the month of November). One of the ancient sacred stories in which this Great Square plays an important role is the story of Shem, Ham and Japheth (the sons of Noah), following the story of the Genesis Flood. I believe that this story is intended to teach us spiritual truths -- but that when it is taken literally, its message is completely inverted, focusing on external and physical details rather than pointing us to focus on the spiritual nature of ourselves and others.
We also didn't have time to get to the constellation Aquarius, who also plays many extremely important roles in ancient myth around the globe, and whose stars are visible this month if you know where to look (use the Great Square as a guide). A fascinating myth featuring Aquarius and surrounding constellations, from the Aboriginal Australian cultures, is discussed at some length in Star Myths of the World, Volume One (2015). Other sacred stories involving Aquarius which have been explored in previous blog posts include the stories involving John the Baptist in the New Testament scriptures.
The powerful god Dionysus of the mythology of ancient Greece is also associated with Aquarius in some of the sacred stories of the Dionysus cycle of myths (and with other constellations in other parts of the cycle). The association of Dionysus with Aquarius makes sense, because Dionysus is the god of wine (among other things), and Aquarius can be seen to be pouring out liquid from a vessel in the heavens.
Below is an ancient amphora thought to date to the 6th century BC which depicts Dionysus holding out a kantharos with which he will presumably pour some wine -- a posture which evokes the outline of the constellation Aquarius. The identification of Dionysus with Aquarius is confirmed by the ancient artwork, because a large goat with prominent horns has been depicted beside the god. If you look in the direction of Aquarius in the night sky (or if you look at the planetarium app Stellarium, or the book by H. A. Rey which shows you how to find and identify the constellations), you will quickly realize that the zodiac constellation of Capricorn the Goat is very close to the zodiac constellation of Aquarius, and that in fact Capricorn precedes Aquarius in the annual cycle of the zodiac.
These are just a few of the connections between the constellations visible during the month of November and sacred stories preserved among the different cultures of the world, designed to convey ancient wisdom for our benefit and blessing in this incarnate life.
I believe that these ancient myths are a precious inheritance given to all humanity -- and that when we begin to connect the stars and the myths, our time spent gazing up into the night sky becomes even more meaningful. I hope that you will have an opportunity to get out this month and see them in person, if at all possible, and I hope that this month's "Skies over Grimerica" segment will help you to begin to connect with them in a meaningful way.