Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of September 7th, - September 13th, 2007

The Swan

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  Soaring high overhead through the star studded sky, using the Milky Way as a navigational river to help find her way flies Cygnus the Swan.
Cygnus

Cygnus, The Swan

At this time of the year the three principal stars that make up the backbone of Cygnus- Albireo the head, Sadr the body and Deneb the tail- are crossing the Meridan (highest in the sky) culminating their nightly voyage at about 10 and 11 o'clock respectively. Albireo is currently transiting the meridan at 9:49 PM, Sadr follows at 10:40 PM, and Deneb literally brings up the rear at 10:59 PM. These are the three brightest stars in the constellation, designated in Greek alphabetical order with the brightest star first and so on. Hence Deneb is the brightest star, and is designated as Alpha Cygni; Albireo is the second brightest star in the constellation and hence is known as Beta Cygni, and Sadr is the third brightest, Gamma Cygni.

  Alpha, beta, gamma; one, two, three.

  See how easy it can be?

While the Spring point (vernal equinox) passed through the constellation Gemini (6300 to 4800 BC), creation myths spoke of a world dominated by duality and twins. The Chinese designate these stars as the Great Tao, the yin and yang symbol we are familiar with. Whether one uses this symbol or that of the Roman numeral two makes little difference, each is simply a different handle for the themes of duality.
A Pilos cap on one of the Twins

A Twin wearing a Pilos cap:
The remains of the egg.

One works as well as the other.

  Traditions which speak of creation as being composed of an egg (Gemini is an air sign, birds are creatures of the air, their beginning marked by the birth of an egg) often give birth to twins. In Africa, the Dogon tribe of Mali speak of a creation myth wherein God creates the world in the form of an egg, with two pairs of mixed twins in the egg. To paraphrase, one of the twins threw himself into the void and attempted to take his partner with him, but it didn't work and God designated the second couple from the egg to take ovrt creation. In a world run on duality, it makes sense it didn't work the first time, otherwise, there would be no need for number two.

  While we cannot radiocarbon date myth, we do know that in Central Europe during this same period, archaeological artifacts have been left with a preponderance of images showing bird, eggs and twins. Unlike myths, these can and have been radiocarbon dated and establish that these themes were popular at these times. This theme of avian creation seems to reach a peak c. 5000 BC, which is towards the end of the period of time during which the Vernal Equinox was moving through the constellation Gemini (6300 to 4800 BC).

  If we listen carefully, we also find a Greek myth which tells the tale of essentially the same thing. Zeus (the sky god, or perhaps more directly, the sky), in the form of a Swan, made love to Leda, who gave birth to two eggs which hatched the Dioscuri, our twins Kastor and Polydeuces (Gk), or Castor and Pollux (Roman). The skull-cap they wear, the pilos (a softly peaked hat), was explained as the remnants of the egg from which they hatched. Similar to our African myth, the Greek myth has Leda producing a second set of siblings, Helen and Clytemnestra, the wives of Menelaos and Agamemnon, the brother kings of the Greeks. Menelaos was the King of Sparta. Tradition has Sparta ruled by not one, but two kings, one of whom would go off to war when needed, while the other maintained the continuity of the state by remaining at home. In Sparta, sibling tales certainly seem to have taken hold.

Cygnus Rising

After the Sun sets in the West, the stars can begin to be seen

  In many of the ancient agricultural cultures, both day and year began with sundown. On New Year's Day, after the Sun has set in Gemini marking a new Spring and as it starts to get dark enough for the Sun to appear, Cygnus rose in the northeast, giving birth to another New Year, another egg, and another set of twins, year after year.

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