Special Valentines’ Day Post: Star-Crossed Lovers

Special Valentines’ Day Post: Star-Crossed Lovers

For this Valentines Day, I’d like to tell three little romantic myths that you can look at whenever you look at the stars, (like I will tonight when I take my fiancee to a romantic dinner at Primland Resort).

Myth #1- Perseus (Ancient Greek)

"Andromeda and Perseus" by Pierre Mignard (oil on canvas, 1679)

“Andromeda and Perseus” by Pierre Mignard (oil on canvas, 1679)

 

Perseus was one of the greatest heroes of classical Greek mythology. He was the son of Danae, princess of Argos, and the god Jupiter. Perseus’ most famous act was his killing of the Gorgon Medusa. This was a difficult task as the monster was so hideous, anyone who looked it in the eye would immediately turn to stone. In the video below, you can see the inspiration for this myth, and how it is commemorated in the night sky, in the constellation Perseus.
With the gods’ help, Perseus killed the monster with a cap of invisibility, winged sandals, and a bronze shield that he used to see the gorgon without being petrified. After striking Medusa’s head off, the beautiful winged horse Pegasus sprung from the bloody stump of her neck. Together, Perseus and Pegasus flew off until Perseus found a beautiful woman chained to a rock: it was the princess Andromeda, doomed to be to be sacrificed to the terrible Craken.

Andromeda was the daughter of king Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. The queen was quite vain, and bragged that she was more beautiful than the queen of the gods, which is why as punishment,  Andromeda was duly chained to a rock on the coast, fully exposed to the monster. Fortunately for her, Perseus happened to be flying by on his way back from killing Medusa.

Ancient Greek vase depicting Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the monster Cetus the Kraken

Ancient Greek vase depicting Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the monster Cetus the Kraken

When Perseus saw the princess, her arms chained to the rocks, he fell in love. He swooped his horse Pegasus down and asked her why she was chained to the rocks. Before she had finished her harrowing tale, the waters roared and from the ocean rose a menacing monster. Andromeda screamed. Her sorrowing father was close at hand and her mother too. They were both in deep distress but Perseus tells Andromeda’s parents that he’ll kill the monster if they agree to give him their daughter’s hand in marriage. Then of course, they gave him their consent, and Perseus kills the monster; he held up the head of Medusa turning the monster to stone. Andromeda was freed, and the two married joyously. Andromeda is represented in the sky as the figure of a woman with her arms outstretched, gripping tightly onto Pegasus.

Night sky photo with captions, courtesy of http://10minuteastronomy.wordpress.com/

Night sky photo with captions, courtesy of http://10minuteastronomy.wordpress.com/

The constellation Perseus lies near Andromeda and her parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia, in the northern sky. He appears with a sword in one hand, and the head of Medusa in the other. In some interpretations, Medusa’s eye is the star Algol, (the head of the ghoul). Algol is an eclipsing binary star- it is normally about as bright as Polaris but every two and a half days it becomes dimmer for roughly eight hours as the dimmer star of the pair passes between the brighter and the Earth.

Myth #2- Isis and Osiris (Egyptian)

Illustration of Isis and Osiris by Boris Artzybasheff, 1930

Illustration of Isis and Osiris by Boris Artzybasheff, 1930

Isis and Osiris were the children of the earth God Geb and the air goddess Nut. They were deeply in love and got married. They both possessed incredible powers, particularly Osiris, who was prophesied to be the lord of the entire world. This angered his brother Set, god of evil, who killed Osiris and put him in a box, dumping it in the Nile River. Isis’ grief was unimaginable at the loss of her husband- she cut off her long hair, dressed in mourning gowns, and searched the world for the coffin.

Isis embalms the body of Osiris, creating the first mummy

Isis embalms the body of Osiris, creating the first mummy

Isis eventually found the coffin and managed to revive her husband from death; she turned herself into a hawk and fanned life into Osiris’ lifeless body. He revived long enough for the two of them to conceive a child, Horus, god of learning and light. However, Set also re-discovered Osiris and tore his brother to pieces. This time, Isis would need more help to revive her husband from death. She called upon the dog-headed god Anubis to find the pieces and bandage them together, which is why the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead. This is also why the god Osiris has green skin in most ancient pictures. Osiris arose  again, but this time he could not return the the human world. He became the lord of the Land of the Dead, where he judges the souls of the recently deceased by weighing their hearts, as you can see below. On the left, dog-headed Anubis leads a deceased soul to be judged by Osiris on his throned, but first, Anubis places the soul’s heart on a scale, balancing it against a feather. If the soul was good and upright in life, his/her heart will be lighter than the feather, and Osiris can welcome the soul to paradise. If the soul’s heart is heavy with wickedness though, it is eaten by a monster called The Devouerer, with the body of a lion, the face of a crocodile, and a hippo’s rear.

The weighing of the souls ritual from the Egyptian Book Of the Dead.

The weighing of the souls ritual from the Egyptian Book Of the Dead.


Also, here’s a hilarious view of the Egyptian gods from a British educational TV show.

The story of Isis and Osiris is written in the stars in the constellations we call Orion and Sirius. We call Orion Osiris, and Sirius is the dog headed god Anubis. In some versions, Isis is also the star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

Myth #3 Izanami and Izanagi (Japanese)

Izanagi and Izanami stirring the ocean with their long spear.

Izanagi and Izanami stirring the ocean with their long spear.

As you know, Japan is a series of islands sitting in the Pacific Ocean. The ancient Japanese created this myth to explain how the islands came to be, as well as where the sun, the moon, fire, wind, and rain came from. In the beginning, there was nothing but water, and the floating bridge of heaven, Amanohashidate. The female god Izanami, and the male god Izanagi were given the task of creating the eight islands of Japan, by stirring the waters with a long spear. The two gods were also in love and settled down on the island of Onokoro. First they created a pillar called Ame-no-mihashira, and built a palace around it for them to live. They went on to have many children, some divine, some mortal. The last child Izanami had was the fire god Kagu-Tsuchi, whose birth burned her so badly that she died. Her husband was enraged and tore his own son to pieces, causing many fire gods to go skipping about. Izanagi was so grieved that he searched the ends of the Earth to find his wife. Eventually he reached Yomi, the land of gloom and death. When he saw his wife’s rotting, maggot-filled body, he was so terrified he tried to run away. Izanami was so angry that she commanded the spirits of the dead to destroy him. Izanagi held them off by placing a huge boulder between the land of the living and the dead, one which no one could ever cross. Still filled with rage, Izanami swore that every day she would kill 1,000 people and bring them to the Land of Gloom, while her husband vowed that he would cause 1,500 babies to be born each day.

Saddened by the loss of his wife, (now the ruler of Yomi), Izanagi wiped his tears from his eyes, creating Ameterasu, goddess of the Sun, and Tsuki-yomi, the god of the Moon. Both children were so bright and majestic that Izanagi placed them high in the heavens forever. He had lost their mother, but was proud that he created such wonderful children.

I think these myths nicely summarize the power of love, especially the power of love in the face of death. So the next time you think you have it bad in your love life, and need a reminder of how hard and how truly magnificent it can be, all you have to do is look up!

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

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