Monthly Archives: February 2013
Etymology – “water-carrier” or “cup-carrier”
Aquarius, like many of the constellations that make up the familiar Western or Greek Zodiac is an old constellation sign. It is known as the Water-Carrier and depicted as a youth carrying a vessel of water. This constellation is located between Capricorn and Pisces. As the 10th largest constellation, Aquarius doesn’t have very many bright stars, so for those out stargazing, they will need a dark sky during the month of October in order to pick it out.
Astronomy & Astrology
Much of the foundations of Western knowledge regarding the fields of Astronomy and Astrology owe its roots to Ancient Mesopotamian cultures. Many ancient cultures studied the stars, seeing in them patterns that are called constellations. These ancient astronomers were able to make predictable, annual turnings of the heavens that they could divide and mark for the passing of the Seasons and time. For the ancients, Astrology served as a precursor to Astronomy and they believed that by studying the heavens, they could foretell future events and even a person’s life path.
These ancient cultures would also meet and exchange ideas frequently and in this fashion, when the Greeks encountered the Persians, there was an exchange of knowledge regarding Astronomy that becomes the constellations and zodiacs so many know today. Eventually, there is no clear distinction between what ancient Mesopotamian Astronomers and Greeks Philosophers knew. Even in current, modern times, the influence of these ancients is still known.
Aquarius is one of the oldest recognized constellations and was one of 48 constellations that were identified by Ptolemy, an astronomer who lived during the second century. In modern times, it is one of 88 known or recognized constellations found in an area of the of the night sky known as the Sea or Water due to the number of other constellations with aquatic associations such as Cetus, Delphinus, Pisces and Eridanus.
Aquarius is depicted in Greek astronomy as a young man pouring water from a vase or urn into the mouth of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish. There are a couple of different myths regarding the constellation of Aquarius in Greek Mythology.
Ganymede was the son of King Tros of Dardania and the basis for the kingdom of Troy in Greek mythology. An exceptionally beautiful youth, Ganymede had caught the attention of Zeus when he was out watching over his father’s flock of sheep. Now, depending on the versions of the story being told, Zeus, either in the guise of an eagle or sending the eagle Aquila, came and carried him off to Mount Olympus. As compensation to King Tros, Zeus gives him some horses.
Once there, Ganymede faced the wrath of Hera, the wife of Zeus, who was angry and very likely jealous that her husband had taken such a fancy for a young boy. In addition to this, she was also angry that Zeus intended for Ganymede to replace Hebe, Hera’s daughter as the cup-bearer after an incident where Hebe had accidentally spilled some nectar of the gods. And it couldn’t have set well with Hera that Zeus immortalizes Ganymede in the constellation of Aquarius in addition to immortality and eternal youth.
Another version of this myth says that it was Eos, the goddess of the Dawn who carries off Ganymede to Mount Olympus and then Zeus took him from her to be the cup-bearer.
Regardless of the versions of the story told, Ganymede does become the cup-bearer to the gods and basically serves them their wine. Further variations of this story tell how Ganymede would ride Zeus’ eagle Aquila, accompanying this god on his travels. Both the Aquila constellation near Aquarius and the constellation of Crater, said to be Ganymede’s cup are near Aquarius to complete this story.
Ganymede also becomes deified as he was given immorality and eternal youth by Zeus and ends up being the one responsible for the annual Nile River flooding and the life-giving waters of rain. Some scholars have pointed out that like the story of Capricorn, the Greeks are borrowing from other older stories and cultures as well as coming up with their own stories to explain the images and what the constellations mean.
In Roman times, the name Ganymedes was sometimes used for handsome slaves who served as cupbearers. Furthering this, many have pointed out that the story of Ganymede is a clear indication and precedence for homosexuality in Greek culture. Others, like in Plato’s writings of dialogues between him and Socrates say that it wasn’t homosexuality; pointing out the meaning of the name Ganymede for “taking pleasure of the mind.” That Zeus loved Ganymede non-sexually for his mind. Still, other sources point out that this is where the Latin word for catamite originates.
The story of Ganymede seems to be related or taken from a Sumerian story of Etana, who descended to the heavens with the help of an eagle while looking for a plant of birth that in turn leads to the birth of his son, Balih.
Grecian Flood Myth
Aquarius, sometimes identified as the god Zeus is the one who causes a great flooding of the earth. A man by the name of Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha who survived a great flood that washed over the earth. Deucalion had been told by his father, Prometheus in some versions of this story, to build a boat and to fill it with provisions. The two did and they floated in the boat over the sea for nine days and nights before coming to ground on Mount Parnassus.
Safe now, the two found that they were the only survivors and began to wander more as the flood waters receded. Deucalion and his wife couldn’t have been the only survivors of this flood if they were able to consult an oracle who told them to “throw over your shoulders the bones of your mother.”
The solution seemed pretty easy to Deucalion who guessed that the bones of Mother Earth must be stones and so he and Pyrrha began picking up stones to toss over their shoulders. After a bit of this, they looked back and saw that there were now people. The stones thrown by Deucalion had become men and the stones thrown by Pyrrha had become women.
In this myth, Aquarius is seen or becomes a taker as well as giver of life. This myth of a world flood and the rebirth of life on Earth is a very common myth that can be found in numerous cultures around the world.
Sometimes in an effort to have the Grecian Flood myth story parallel the Biblical Flood story of Noah and the Ark, it is Zeus himself who tells Deucalion to build a boat and not Prometheus.
The Death Of Hyas
Hyas was a mighty hunter who ended up being killed while out hunting by either a lion or a boar. On his death, his sisters, known collectively as the Hyades for their brother, were so grievous and weeping for their brother’s loss, that the god Zeus took pity on them and placed them up into the heavens, forming the Hyades asterism and the “V-shape” of the Taurus constellation. The tears of their grief would become associated with the coming of rain.
As for Hyas, the gods placed him up in the heavens to become the Aquarius constellation and the lion that killed him became the Leo constellation. Both were placed on opposite ends of the heavens in order to protect Hyas. Making for the ancient Greeks explanations of why neither constellation appears together in the night sky, so that as one constellation sets in the west, the other is rising in the east.
The Arabs depicted the constellation of Aquarius as a bucket due to their religion forbidding the depiction of humans in art. Sometimes a mule was used in place of showing a human as being the one carrying the buckets or urns of water.
Some of the stars that make up Aquarius also have alternative names in the Arabic language. There is beta Aquarri known as Sadalsuud, from an Arabic phrase “sa’d al-suud,” meaning “luck of lucks.” Then there is alpha Aquarri or Sadalmelik and comes from the expression “sa’d al-malik,” meaning “luck of the king.” As well as, gamma Aquarii or Sadalachbia from another Arabic expression “sa’d al-axbiyah,” meaning “luck of the homes.” And finally there is zeta Aquarri, known as Sadaltager, from the Arabic phrase “sa’d al-tajir,” meaning “luck of the merchant.”
Why is there so much luck? In the Middle Eastern world, when the sun enters Aquarius, that marked the beginning of the New Year and Spring was on it’s way. This would be a time of the life-giving rains that so many depend on, especially the farmers.
The constellation of Aquarius was well known to the Babylonians who identified it as GU.LA, “The Great One.” There are many Babylonian entitlement stones and cylinder seals dating to the second millennium marked with the astrological symbol of Aquarius, saying it represented the god Ea shown to be pouring water from an urn or holding an overflowing vase. In Babylonian astronomy, Ea is the ruler of the southern quarter of the Sun’s path, the “Way of Ea” and corresponds to a period of 45 days to either side of the winter solstice.
For the Babylonians, the time of Aquarius marks a time of destructive flooding and rainfall, so they often viewed this constellation unfavorably.
The Sumerians viewed Aquarius as responsible for a great flood that covered the earth. The Sumerians also have the story of Etana, a legendary hero-king whose story has been found on several Akkadian seals. According to the Sumerian king list, Etana is one of the kings who ruled the city of Kish after a great deluge or flood. This king’s list also refers to Etana as “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries.”
The Legend of Etana
In this story, there is a tree with the eagle’s nest at the top and a serpent at its base. Both creatures have promised the sun god Utu that they will be civil with each other and share their food with their children.
One day, the eagle eats one of the serpent’s children and the serpent cries over this. Utu tells the serpent to hide inside the stomach of a dead bull. When the eagle flies down to eat the dead bull, the snake is able to capture the eagle and throws him in a pit to die of hunger.
Utu then sends a man, Etana to help the eagle and saves it. Etana asks the eagle to help him find the “plant of birth” so that he can sire a son. In gratitude, the eagle helps carry Etana up to the heavens where the god Anu presides. Fearful, Etana has the eagle take him back to the ground. Once he’s gotten his courage up, Etana makes another attempt to go up to the heavens and is successful this time in getting the “plant of birth” and is able to sire his son Balith.
In Chinese astrology, the constellation of Aquarius is found in the northern part of the heavens and is symbolized by the Black Tortoise of the North.
In modern Chinese, Aquarius is known as bǎo píng zuò, meaning: “the precious pitcher constellation”. The stream of water flowing out of the Water Jar is depicted as the “Army of Yu-Lin-Kjun,” where “Yu-lin” means “feathers and forest” that represent numerous light-footed soldiers seen in the fainter stars of Aquarius. The stars 88, 89 and 98 Aquarii represent the portion of the constellation called Fou-youe, representing the axes used for weapons and hostage executions. Also found in the constellation of Aquarius is Loui-pi-tchin that represents a rampart stretching out and depicted with the stars 29 and 27 Piscium and 33 and 30 Aquarii through Phi, Lambda, Sigma, and Iota Aquarii to Delta, Gamma, Kappa, and Epsilon Capricorn.
For the ancient Egyptians, the god Hapi, the god of the Nile River was often identified with Aquarius. He was depicted as carrying a tray of food or pouring water from two large urns. With these urns, Hapi distributed the waters of life as the urns represented good fortune. Sometimes Hapi is shown holding a rod called the Norma Nilotica, that was used for measuring the depths of the Nile River. The time of Aquarius marked the annual flooding of the Nile when the life giving waters from Hapi would be poured out and the people could till their farms along the river’s borders. This annual flooding of the Nile for the ancient Egyptians marked the beginning of spring.
The name of Aquarius in the Hindu zodiac is kumbha meaning: “water-pitcher.” Some feel that this is proof or shows that the influences of the Greek zodiac reached as far as India from Grecian travelers. That might be a bit of a stretch as it may be that the Indian or Hindu story of Varuna, god of the sky and waters is who is represented by the constellation of Aquarius.
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The constellation of Aquarius will be forever immortalized by the counterculture of the 1960’s with the Hippies and their proclamations for the Age of Aquarius and the musical Hair. Truth be told, they were a bit premature by about 600 years for when this time will actually begin.
The astrological age is determined by the name of the constellation in which the Vernal or Spring Equinox occurs, which is close to around March 21st. Right now, we’re still in the Age of Pisces, which will continue until about 2600 C.E. depending on the source.
Or beta Aquarri, mentioned up above in the Arabian Mythology section, is the brightest star in the Aquarius constellation. That it is a supergiant star probably helps.
Other notable mentions are some globular clusters of stars of Messier 2 and Messier 72, the asterism Messier 73, along with the Aquarius Dwarf Galaxy. There is also the Saturn Nebula, known as the Waterbearer
There are a series of four meteor showers associated with the constellation of Aquarius. These are the: the March Aquariids, Eta Aquariids, Delta Aquariids, and Iota Aquariids.
The constellation of Aquarius is the eleventh sign of twelve signs that form the Zodiac. For those who study and are into the classical Greek Zodiacs, this time is typically said to be from January 20 to February 18. Due to the changes in the earth’s orbit and tilt, the best time to see this constellation is in October around 9 p.m. The planets Saturn and Uranus are said to rule this Zodiacal sign and constellation. Its element is Air, an extroverted sign, and is one of four fixed signs.
Aquarius people are said to be inquisitive, unpredictable, independent, friendly, outgoing, artistic, intellectual, social, stubborn, altruistic, and even progressive. At their best, Aquarians are great humanitarians, thinking of others and how to help them. They have an easy with people and are able to interact with a lot of people and relate well with them. At their worst, Aquarians can come across as know-it-alls and become argumentative when trying to get others to see their viewpoints and ideas as correct instead of listening to others or realizing they may have been incorrect.
Etymology – “He who wards off the wolf”
The Wolf God, Lupercus is the god of agriculture and shepherds. The name Lupercus is said by some to be an epithet of the Roman god Faunus.
As Faunus, he is a god of the wild, untamed nature and fertility and the giver of oracles. The Romans came to identify Faunus with the Greek Pan due to the similarity of some of their characteristics such as horns and hooves. Faunus’ attributes are the wolfskin, wreath and goblet.
If I stick to just this, there really wouldn’t be much of a blog post. Lupercus comes into his own when looking at and focusing on the ancient Roman holiday known as Lupercalia.
Lupercalia – The Wolf Festival
The festival and holiday of Lupercalia was held every year from February 13th to 15th, often said to be the anniversary of the founding of Lupercus’ (properly Faunus’) temple. The Luperci, who were the priests of Lupercus and wore goat skins, would sacrifice two goats and a dog during a ritual at this time. Goats were sacrificed as Lupercus is the god of shepherds and the dog got sacrificed as they’re the protector of flocks and herds. The blood from these animals would then be wiped on two young men’s foreheads. This festival was held too, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, allowing for good health and fertility with the coming year.
The sacrifice of the goats and dog would take place at the Lupercale, a cave that according to tradition is where the twins Remus and Romulus were raised by the she-wolf Luperca. In 2007, National Geographic posted an article about how Archeologists found this cave beneath the ruins of Emperor Augustus’ palace on Palatine Hill, Rome.
Lupercalia replaced an earlier Spring Cleansing ritual of Februa once held on the same date and from where the month of February gets its name. Just as Lupercalia replaced Februa, it too has largely been replaced by the more modern Valentine’s Day where the Catholic church made efforts to tone down some of the more wilder pagan rituals or to get people to accept Christianity more easily with their converting from pagan religions.
Not too surprising given how riotous and risqué that Lupercalia could be with the use of whips in striking women to try and make them more fertile, men running naked chasing women, the blood sacrifice of goats and a dog. Even the familiar heart shape symbol of love has some controversial origins to what it really depicts and is. Unsubstantiated sources comment too how the use of Lupercalia’s lottery of young men drawing the names women from a box is the more modern tradition of giving Valentine Cards.
Also spelled or called Lycaea, this ancient, archaic Greek festival is said to be where the rituals of Lupercalia originated from. For those who want to link werewolves with the holiday of Lupercalia, Lykaia is the one you’re probably thinking of.
The festival of Lykaia had a secret festival held on Mount Lykaion (Wolf Mountain) in Arcadia. The myths that surround this ritual are believed to relate the story of Lycaon’s feast he held for the gods and involved having served up one of his sons Nyctimus as one of the main courses. Another version of this story given by an Eratosthenes, holds that Lycaon had served up his grandson Arcas at this feast. In either eventuality, an enraged Zeus turns Lycaon into a wolf and proceeds to kill by means of lightning; Lycaon’s other sons before restoring the dead child back to life.
Mmm…. Cannibalism. Not.
The festival of Lykaia were held annually at the beginning of May. It was a primitive ritual festival and rite of passage for young males known as epheboi among the Greeks into adulthood. With the ritual held at night, evidence taken by some with the name of Lycaon’s son Nyctimus, a lot of rumors about cannibalism and werewolf transformations circulated widely among the Greeks as to just what was going on up there. Even Plato wrote about one clan who would gather every nine years and sacrifice to Zeus Lykaios where a piece of human flesh would be mixed in among the pieces of animal meat.
The belief held that whoever ate the piece of human flesh would turn into a wolf and they could only return to human form after nine-years if they hadn’t eaten human flesh. The famous Olympic boxing champion, Damarchus is said to have turned into a wolf during the ritual sacrifice held for Zeus Lykaios. Games were also a big part of the Lykaios festival held every year after the secret ritual held at night.
Archaeologists have found by looking at the ash heaps near the altars for Lykaia no human remains and suggest that the rituals and festival of Lykaia are far older than what even the ancient Greeks themselves knew. Excavations have generally shown nothing earlier than about 700 B.C.E. though one trench excavated at Mount Lykaion shows possible ritual evidence dating to the beginning of the third millennium B.C.E., a full thousand years before the worship of Zeus throughout Greece.
Lykaios – Wolf-Zeus
This is an epithet of Zeus in connection to the festival of Lykaia and seems to have been a formality in making him a patron of the rituals held. Zeus’ inclusion is possibly instrumental in ending any human sacrifices going on or trying to put to rest the rumors.
The Greek god Apollo is also known to have a wolf-form as Apollo Lycaeus. He was worshiped in Athens at the Lykeion or Lyceum. This site is most remembered as the place where the philosopher Aristotle taught.
A sanctuary for the Greek god Pan was also found on Mount Lykaion. The traditional story goes that Euandros, the son of Hermes, led a colony of people from Pallantion, Arkadia to Italy where he built the town of Pallantion on Palatine Hill. Euandros introduced the cult of Pan Lýkaios and the Lykaia festival that later becomes the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Given how much the Romans would identify their gods with those of the Greeks and other cultures, that could make sense.
Apparently there are modern Lykaia games that have been held every four years since 1973, at the beginning of August by the Ano Karyes Association in the same places where the games associated with the ancient festival of Lykaia were held. These are sort of a localized Greek Olympics.