Athena's Web,  Week of November 5th - 11th,  1999

Pagan Paths

Columns Archive

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   Although the winds have stilled and the trail grown cold in the night air, there remains evidence of what once passed this way centuries ago. Legends told around the fire continue to softly reverberate with yesteryear's echoes. These tales recant a fable which seems so foreign to us that we question its very existence. Is this really what people once believed?

   When Yukiuma spoke of the warriors sitting on the heads of the giant water serpents, restraining them from flooding the Earth, he is addressing an old tradition, and one also found in other cultures.

The Warrior Atop the Great Serpent

The Warrior Atop the Great Serpent?

   "Suppose I should not protest your orders. Suppose I should willingly accept the way of the Bahannas. Immediately, the great snake would turn over, and the sea would rush in, and we would all be drowned."

   Although these images come from the American Southwest, they reflect notions also tied up with the oldest classical dragon. From the Perseus myth as told by Apollodorus, in his Library (II, iv);

   "And having received also from Hermes an adamantine sickle he flew to the ocean and caught the Gorgons asleep. They were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. Now Medusa alone was mortal; for that reason Perseus was sent to fetch her head."

   Beta Perseus (the Demon's Head), is a binary star whose companion eclipses and dims its light for approximately 9 of its 69 hour cycle. Apparently, this variable loss of light marks the mortal Gorgon.

   "But the Gorgons had heads twined about with the scales of dragons, and great tusks like swine's, and brazen hands, and golden wings, by which they flew; and they turned to stone such as beheld them. So Perseus stood over them as they slept, and while Athena guided his hand and he looked with averted gaze on a brazen shield, in which he beheld the image of the Gorgon, he beheaded her. When her head was cut off, there sprang from the Gorgon the winged horse Pegasus and Chrysaor, the father of Geryon, these she had by Poseidon."

   As Perseus and Medusa's head rose with the Sun in the Spring of 13th century BC, the constellations Andromeda and Pegasus were helically rising, born from the rays of the morning Sun. Cepheus was already high overhead, standing above and behind his queen, Cassiepea. Determined by the first day of spring in 1287, as the Right Ascension Midheaven 'cut' the head of Medusa, the Mycenaean civilization was in its ascendancy, a period lasting from approximately 1450 to 1100 BC.

   "Being come to Ethiopia... he found the King's daughter Andromeda set out to be the prey of a sea monster. For Cassiepea, the wife of Cepheus, vied with the Nereids in beauty and boasted to be better than them all; hence the Nereids were angry, and Poseidon, sharing their wrath, sent a flood and a monster to invade the land."

   Towering high up over both King and Queen is Draco. Here, in its oldest classical reference, it is linked to the powers of the flood. This same dragon has the foot of a warrior placed squarely on its head. This foot belongs to the greatest and most famous of all the warriors of the Greek tradition; Hercules.

   Whether in the East or West, the powers of the flood and waters have long been associated with the Dragon. Are these the same waters, and powers, the Hopi now claim to hold in abeyance for the planet?

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Algol Rising

A New Beginning, A New Myth

Aurora's Secrets, circa 1287 BC

   This is how the early morning sky would have appeared shortly before a crimson dawn during the Mycenaean Age. All the principal characters of the Persian myth make their appearance. Perseus, holding the severed head of Medusa in his hand, is rising on the horizon. Pegasus springs from the rays of the morning Sun, escaping into the night time sky. Andromeda dominates the Eastern doorway. Immediately over Perseus, watching the whole scene, is the Queen and King, Cassiepea (her Greek spelling) and Cepheus. Above Cepheus, and out of the picture, is the head and body of the Dragon, as he rose to his greatest height over the North Celestial Pole.

   As time and the current sky picture changed, so too, did the myths of the ancients. Knowledge of the observational and mathematical precision of heaven was a practice both highly coveted, and greatly honored by the myths of various cultures. As we might expect, it is from the Mycenaeans that we first learn of the myth of Perseus, and all his various exploits.


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