Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of August 4th-August 10th,  2000

Secrets of the Stars

Columns Archive


   The lost knowledge of the ancients is contained in the stars in a wisdom that has been forgotten to all but a select few. The observations of centuries was processed through dreams, traditions, and civilizations which costumed them in their own manner, but passed on the essential information to those who followed. It is for this reason that the Roman myths so liberally draw on the Greek tradition, and the Greeks from the Phoenicians, etc.


The Constellation
Ursa Major

   One of these is the story of Callisto, and the Roman/Greek myth of the Bear. For the Romans, the story speaks of Diana and Ursa, while for the Greeks it was Artemis and Arctos, but they each translate as the Moon and Great Bear. What follows is a segment from that tale, as told by Ovid in the Metamorphosis. Jove (Jupiter) has assumed the guise of Diana and raped Callisto, who has now unwillingly betrayed her oath of chastity to the silver goddess. Juno, Jupiter's wife, is seeking revenge on Callisto for her husband's infidelity.

   Throughout this time the Thunderer's wary wife
Knew the condition of her husband's mistress,
Yet waited for the moment of revenge;
Now it was ripe (and sharp enough to give
A point to Juno's hate; Arcas was born,
The child of Jove's Arcadian adventure.
Therefore she turned a savage eye and mind
Upon the girl and said, "Well, my adulteress,
You did no less than make my injury public proof
Of Jove's decline from grace to infamy.
And you shall not go free; that shapely body
That you and Jove loved all too well shall vanish."
With this she seized the girl's forelocks and threw
Her, face to earth; and as the girl raised hands
To plead for mercy, her arms were covered
With bristling black hair, her hands were feet, tipped
By their crooked nails; the lips that Jove once praised
Became a pair of wide, misshapen jaws.
And to prevent her prayers from reaching heaven
Her gift of speech was ripped away and from her throat
Came guttural noises horrible to hear;
Though her emotions were of human kind,
She was a bear, and as she lifted hands
(Paws rather) in grief, in sorrow, through she
Could not say her thoughts, she felt Jove showed her
Lack of gratitude.

  The myth of Callisto and the Bear is one of travesty. When heaven has its will (and when does heaven not have its will?), there's little that we as mortals can do. Death and transfiguration is an inherent part of this story. Callisto (as a bear)
Seven Stars of Ursa Major

Gail's Natal Alignments
and the Eclipse

is shot by her son, Arcas. Astrologers attribute metaphorical 'hired mourners', to the characteristics of the stars in the handle or tail of Ursa Major, indicating great grief over the loss of a loved one. The myth indicates a connection with Artemis, as the Moon.

  Gail's Moon was conjunct Mizar at birth, one of the stars of Ursa Major. Her Saturn conjuncted Alkaid, a second of the stars in the Bear. The eclipse last fall conjuncted Merak, a third of the seven in the constellation and the natal position of her Pluto. Gail ran with a contemporary band of Artemis, the women who would gather in the woods and learn its secrets. As the myth suggests, she had an incredibly shapely body. I watched, in the later stages of Gail's dying, her beautiful features transform as she put on the death mask and the lips that I had known '...became a pair of wide misshapen jaws.' As part of the celestial choreography, Jody Noe spotted a bear which climbed a tree together with her three cubs here at the house as a Native American sweat was being prepared for Gail prior to her passing, and another was seen at the intersection just above our house on the way to the gravesite on the day of her funeral. Rosemary Gladstar gave Gail a bear rattle, while Lucy Clark gave her a bear token, which she kept on her table next to her, as she prepared for her final journey.

  None of them knew anything about the myth.


The Myths

  Myths are a canvas upon which people paint stories of the past. Epic events were retold according to the astrological alignments of the time. When Jupiter rapes some young innocent, it is heaven initiating the affairs of the world and thrusting them in a new direction. There are many tales of his amours. In the Rape of Europa, civilization is passed from Asia to Europe through Crete, the isle to which Zeus took her. That is how it happened.



  The myth of Callisto addresses a more personal tradegy. It conveys the celestial nature of the Great Bear. Those who have these stars in their birth map may be exposed to a loss which rips them apart.

  "The last star in the Great Bear, meaning, 'hired mourners'. This fixed star is supposed to be bound up with the realm of the dead, and therefore is associated with death and mourning."

   -Ebertin, p. 57


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