Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of March 7th - March 13th,  2003

Stellar Threads

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   We're recently been examining some of the earliest myths of the heroic age. If we were to paint a picture of life during this second millennium BC, in Greece we would hear of Chiron's teaching and training of legendary youths. On Crete, acrobats grabbed the horns of powerful charging bulls, and flipped over onto their bovine backs. In Egypt, Moses raised his serpent staff before Pharaoh and commanded the monarch to let his people go. In Turkey, multilingual battle cries clamored for the return of Helen before the walls of Troy.

Fleeing with the Fleece


Fleeing with The Fleece

   It is from this period that the myth of the Golden Fleece arises, a Ram sailing across the sky carrying a mortal burden, alighting in Colchis to willingly sacrifice its life, its coat hung on a tree protected by a dragon in a grove sacred to Ares. This myth freezes time, remembering a slice of history and retelling its tale for generations to follow.

   We have already seen how the cornerstones of this myth represent an accurate astronomical picture. The stars in the back of the Ram were being crossed by the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. The Dragon in the tree is Draco 'standing' at the pole of heaven, marking the center of the Earth's equator and northern skies. Astrologically speaking, there is yet more that has been woven by the golden wool threading our story.

Early Stars of the Ram


The Back of the Ram

  The coloring of the Fleece is obvious to those who study astrology. The Moon is exalted in Taurus. This represents the fertility of the Earth and its yearly agricultural produce. Its light is captured in the ceremonial silver we use to eat with. The Sun is exalted in Aries. The Sun in Aries represents new beginnings, whether of the agricultural year or our youth. The color of the Sun is gold. With the Sun exalted in Aries, this image is mythologically portrayed as a Quest for the Golden Fleece.

Dragon's Teeth


Just below Aries
is the head of a beast

   But there is another thread that is also at work here. When Cadmus founds Thebes, he must sow dragon's teeth, and defeat those who rise from the ground. When Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece journeys to Colchis, he, too, must sow dragon's teeth and defeat the 'Earth born men' who arise from the ground. Each of these heroes are mythologically linked to dragons sacred to Ares, the God of War. Myth records how Athena gave half of the teeth to Cadmus, and the other half to the King of Colchis, to be given to Jason.

   As the stars in the back of the Ram align with the first day of Spring, so, too, do two stars in the head of the sea monster, Cetus. As Botein, delta Aries, aligned with the Vernal Equinox in the 17th century BC, so Menkar, alpha Cetus aligned the following year. As Pi and Sigma Aries crossed the Vernal Equinox in the 13th century, so Kaffalijidhma, gamma Cetus fell between them around 1244 BC. These two stars, the first and third brightest in the constellation Cetus, are in the head of the beast. If they in fact represent the 'teeth' of the dragon which must be sown by our two heroes, this is precisely as the Vernal Equinox is crossing the back of the Ram.

   Thebes founded in the 17th century? Jason venturing across the Black Sea in the 13th? These dates correspond nicely with the early traditions. Like Athena's tapestries, the stars were the threads with which the ancients wove their mythological webs of time, telling the tales of their youth.