Monday, February 8, 2016

Procession of the gods, part three

If you're inclined to rise up early in the morning to drink in the glorious lineup of the five visible planets in the pre-dawn sky, you only have a few more mornings on which to do so during 2016.

I definitely encourage everyone to try, if it is at all possible to do so. For best results, you'll need a good unobstructed view of the eastern horizon (if there are hills, buildings or trees in the way of your view, you may need to plan a route to a better observation location, if possible).

Mercury and Venus are now both continuing their way around their tight solar orbits and as they do so, they "sink back" closer to the rising orb of our sun and will soon be lost in its effulgent brightness. By the end of this week, Mercury will no longer be visible above the horizon prior to the sun's appearance, no matter how good of a terrestrial observation point you have available to you.

Above is a diagram showing the lineup one more time, if it can be of help to you in your efforts. There are many sites on the web which can also give you good instructions for identifying each of the five visible planets before dawn, such as this article on Sky & Telescope's site, and this discussion from their "This Week's Sky at a Glance" page.

Most sites giving you instructions on how to find the morning lineup, however, will not give you much discussion of the spiritual significance of this phenomenon, and how it can have direct and positive messages for our daily lives.

In the diagram above, I have included the names of the deities associated with the planetary powers, from the myths of ancient Greece. Other cultures and mythologies around the globe had different names for the gods and goddesses, of course, but it is extremely noteworthy that the attributes and powers associated with the "different" gods and goddesses in different parts of the world can be seen to have clear resonances and correspondences with one another.

In the diagram above I have also added labels for a few bright stars and constellations which can serve as landmarks when you are locating the five visible planets, and also can help you to distinguish between a bright star and a planet (note that the planets don't generally appear to "twinkle" the way the stars do, just as the moon does not "twinkle" when we see it in the night sky). 

In the diagram, I have labeled Arcturus, the bright red-orange-tinted star in the heart of Scorpio. The awe-inspiring shape of the massive Scorpion is rising almost straight up in the southeast in the predawn hours, and if you can recognize the Scorpion and Antares, you can easily locate the planet Saturn to the east of it (left if, as in the above diagram, you are looking south from an observation point in the northern hemisphere).

I have also labeled Spica (in Virgo) and Arcturus (in Bootes). These two stars are often familiar to those who know the saying "follow the Arc to Arcturus (and continue the same arc to drive a spike to Spica)" or some variation of the above. The "Arc" that the saying is describing is the sweeping curve that is suggested by the handle of the Big Dipper -- continue that arc on past the end of the handle and it will sweep you right into the red-glowing star of Arcturus, or Hokule'a (see previous post on Hokule'a, here).

In the above diagram, I have also given the ancient Greek name of the god or goddess associated with each planet: Zeus (Jupiter), Ares (Mars), Kronos (Saturn -- and there were other important Greek gods associated with Saturn, but the Titan Kronos can certainly be argued to be one of them), Aphrodite (Venus), and Hermes (Mercury). I have also added an arrow pointing to the glow coming from the pre-dawn sun (Helios, and also associated with the god Apollo, although they are distinct entities).

As we have seen in many previous posts, one teaching found in the ancient wisdom across many different cultures around the globe is the knowledge that the individual actually has access to the invisible realm at all times, and that gods and goddesses can and do appear instantly when called upon in certain situations -- appearing instantly, I believe, because they were present all the time, or because the individual's internal access to the infinite realm is in fact always present. See for example the previous discussion entitled "Why divinities can appear in an instant."

That this same knowledge was understood in conjunction with the divinities of ancient Greece is quite evident from an examination of any of the bodies of sacred mantras or hymns of the ancient Greek civilization such as the Homeric Hymns or the Orphic Hymns. In these ancient poems, the speaker addresses one of the divinities and extols his or her specific characteristics, powers, and areas of greatest action, and then -- in almost every case -- request that the god or goddess come now, or at least hear the prayer and act now.

An outstanding new translation of the Orphic Hymns, by Professor Aposotolos N. Athanakassis and Benjamin M. Wolkow, published in 2013 (first published in 1977, and available in a new and updated edition), is well worth adding to your library, if you are interested in those ancient hymns to the divine powers.

Some sample lines from hymns addressed to the five gods and goddesses you can see together in the predawn heavens over the next few mornings are included below, but better is to read each hymn carefully and thoughtfully, in its entirety, if possible.

15. "To Zeus" (selected lines)

O king, you have brought to light
divine works -- 
earth, goddess and mother,
the hills swept by the shrill winds,
the sea and the host of the stars,
marshaled by the sky.
Kronian Zeus, strong-spirited god,
the thunderbolt is your scepter,
father of all,
beginning and end of all,
earth-shaker, increaser
and purifier, all-shaker,
god of thunder and lightning,
Zeus the sower.


65. "To Ares" (selected lines)

Ever bespattered with blood,
you find joy in killing in the fray of battle, O horrid one,
your desire is for the rude clash 
of swords and spears.
Stay the rage, stay the strife,
relax pain's grip on my soul,
yield to the wish of Kypris,
yield to the revels of Lyaios,
exchange the might of arms
for the works of Deo,
yearning for youth-nurturing peace,
bliss-brining peace.


13. "To Kronos" (selected lines)

Everlasting father
of blessed gods and men,
resourceful, pure and mighty,
O powerful Titan,
you consume all things
and replenish them too.
Unbreakable is the hold you have
on the boundless cosmos,
O Kronos, begetter of time,
Kronos of the shifting stories,
child of Earth, 
child of starry Sky.


55. "To Aphrodite" (selected lines)

Everything comes from you:
you have yoked the world,
you control all three realms,
you give birth to all
to everything in heaven,
to everything upon the fruitful earth,
to everything in the depths of the sea,
O venerable companion of Bacchos.
[. . .]
Come, whether you ride your swan-drawn chariot
over the sea's billows,
joining the creatures of the deep
as they dance in circles,
or on land in the company
of the dark-faced nymphs 
as light-footed they frisk
over the sandy beaches.
[. . .]
Come, O beautiful,
O comely goddess,
I summon you with holy words,
I summon you with a pious soul.


 28. "To Hermes" (selected lines)

Hear me, Hermes,
messenger of Zeus, son of Maia,
almighty in heart, lord of the deceased,
judge of contests, 
gentle and clever, O Argeiphontes,
you are the guide
of the flying sandals,
a man-loving prophet to mortals.
A vigorous god, you delight
in exercise and in deceit.
Interpreter of all you are
and a profiteer who frees us of cares,
who holds in his hands
the blameless tool of peace.


9. "To the Sun" (selected lines)

Hear me, O blessed one,
eternal eye that sees all,
Titan radiant as gold, 
Hyperion, celestial light,
self-born, untiring,
sweet sight to living creatures.
[. . .]
A paragon of justice,
O water-loving lord of the cosmos,
you guard pledges and ever the highest,
you do help all.