We are almost ready for the grand opening. In three hours we will be at the German Maltese Circle hopefully greeting our guests. We had made some arrangements this morning and everything is set!
We want to share the last bit of our projects, which is tales about stars, legends and myths that are collected by Martin Galea de Giovanni. In the meantime we will be also sharing some photos taken by me and lovely Raisa Tarasova, who helped us with the set up. Some of the photos will be from this morning and were quickly edited for the purpose of this entry.
Without much delay, please scroll down to read some amazing stories:
I. The Dark Side of the Night Sky….
The end of October is known as the spooky season so instead of the usual trick or treat, fix yourself a cup of hot witches brew, put on something warm and take a trip on the dark side… of the sky!
First stop will be somewhere high overhead by mid evening. Commonly known as the constellation ‘Delphinus’, this little constellation was at one time called ‘Job’s Coffin’ due to the coffin shape of this small group of stars. The second constellation to hunt down is just south of Pegasus is called the Sea Monster Cetus. The third easy monster is the constellation Draco – The Dragon.
A little hunting thru some old atlas’ will be required to locate the following lost constellations, but to the intrepid hunter of the obscure, these will bring you some satisfaction once you have learned them and found them….after all this is a Hunt!
The False Cross, The Sickle and Cerberus, the three headed porter of hell are all but old constellations which no longer exist… but though the porter has retired, the demon in hell is alive and kicking …
Turn your attention to the constellation Perseus and hunt down “The Demon Star” commonly known as Algol. This star is one of the shortest term variable stars, and can be seen to brighten and dim in the course of just a few days….!
A telescope will help you spot some other spooky fellows: Ophiuchus the surgeon on the ship Argos who became so good that he could restore the dead to life (until Zeus decided to throw a lightning bolt at him!), he now hides a “little ghost” planetary nebula NGC 6369 which together with the Witch Head Nebula- (IC 2118) at the foot of Orion, the ghost ring (IC 514) and the medusa nebula in Gemini … scare the daylights out of the sky.
II. Its turtles all the way!
A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the Earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.
At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.”
The scientist gave a superior smile before replying,
“What is the tortoise standing on?”
“You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But its turtles all the way down!”
Although we all know that the Earth sits on no turtle (or turtles), we also know that our knowledge doesn’t go much further than that….
For Stephen Hawking (who is considered as a living genius by many), the turtle story is one of two accounts of the nature of the universe; he asserts that the turtle theory is patently ridiculous, but admits that his own theories may be just as ridiculous. “Only time will tell,” he concludes.
For Geertz (a distinguished anthropologist), however, the story is patently wise, teaching us that we will never get to the bottom of things.
This comparison also reveals a difference between the positivist and interpretive or hermeneutic approach to the interpretation of myths. Positivists read myths literally and find them false and foolish; interpretivists read them metaphorically or allegorically and find them true and profound.
The phrase “turtles all the way down” or sometimes simply “a turtle problem” are often used to describe other infinite regressions.
III. Tragedies of sorts…
Some time ago I set at a theatre watching the story of Medea and Jason, unfolding into the tragedy that one was to expect….
It somehow reminded me of William Morris who in the 1800’s wrote the “Life and death of Jason”. It contains an exquisite description of centaur, whose own tragedy landed him a place in the heavens (well, the southern sky).
….at last in sight the Centaur drew,
A mighty grey horse trotting down the glade,
Over whose back the long grey locks were laid,
That from his reverend head aboard did flow ;
For to the waste was man, but all below
A mighty horse, once roan, but now well-nigh white
With lapse of years; with oak-wreaths was he dight
Where man joined unto horse , and on his head
He wore a gold crown, set with rubies red,
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow,
No man could bend of those that battle now.
… such was the detail given to one of the many constellations that (used to?) adorn the night skies.
Set against a pitch-black backdrop the constellations used to stage their daily drama – to millions world wide … No commercials, and absolutely environmental friendly…. No connection charges or fees.
In fact they still do perform their eons old drama, but now they have competitors …power hungry devices … computers, TVs, DVDs … draining energy while leaving little or none to our imagination.
The end product being couch potatoes, smog and light pollution … thus pulling the curtains on the cosmic drama that has entertained our civilization from the dawn of times …
Showing tonight in a dark sky far away from home! … Now, isn’t this the real tragedy?
IV. November Nights…
I was born on a grey and wet November night. That was way too many moons ago and had it been a cloudless night, the waxing crescent moon would have been visible in the sky right after sunset. Mercury was shining bright very close to Antares, in Scorpio. Jupiter and Mars rose a couple of hours later, and Saturn and Regulus must have made a fine pair of bright stars as they appeared on the horizon just as I was opening my eyes for the first time.
I wonder what astrologers would have conjured had they been able to look up at the night sky.
Before it even crosses your mind that I’m becoming an astrology convert here’s the disclaimer: “No I don’t believe that the planets dancing around in the night sky make one iota of a difference to us earthlings, no matter how massive the planets and other celestial bodies are”. No, not even the size of the earthling does.
That said, for the past few years I’ve been more open to the idea that people born in different seasons might have some similar characteristics. The basis of this hypothesis is the fact that the brain is far more impressionable (neuroscientists refer to the term plastic) in early life than in maturity. This plasticity has both positive and negative sides of course. Unlike those born in June, being born in November means that you spend the first few months on Earth cuddled up in blanket upon blanket, experiencing short and dark winter days… and Christmas too.
On further investigations, it appears that some scientific studies do seem to point in this direction.
In fact, according to the study “Lifespan Depends on Month of Birth” conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany if you were born during October through December, you may live longer than those born in April through June. And according to another study published in a 2007 issue of the ‘British Medical Journal.’, autumn-born babies may be more active than spring-born babies. The researchers found that fall babies activity surpassed spring-born ones by 9 percent.
It would obviously be interesting to see other similar studies being done in the future. Perhaps, in some ways, astrologers were unknowingly right, for the wrong reasons of course.
Xibalba is not the kind of place you would regularly frequent, as once you get there, there will be no turning back. Once inside the entrance, rumoured to be found in a chain of Guatemalan caves, one will start a 1,500 light year journey to M42 – the Orion Nebula. This is a place considered by the Mayans to be a “Place of Fear”; the underworld of Xibalba.
Apart from the familiar belt of Orion, the Mayans used to consider another asterism in this constellation. “The Three Stones of the Hearth” was formed by the great blue giant, Rigel, Kappa Orionis, the star Saiph and the belt star, Alnitak. This triangular pattern formed the hearth that was the very foundation of the Mayan home. Directly in the centre of the Three Stones of the Hearth, you will find the Orion Nebula.
Here it is interesting to point out that the Mayans had observed this nebulous object in the sky way before Peiresc rediscover it in the 17th century.
The significance of this celestial hearth is also related to the fact that it also represents a place of creation set in the heavens by the Maya maize god, Hun-Nal-Yeh.
It is quite fascinating to note that a few thousand years later, we have discovered that the centre of this heavenly hearth, the Orion Nebula (which actually extends by around 10° – that’s equivalent to the apparent size of 20 moons) is a stellar nursery where new stars are being born.
It appears that the Mayans had a good understanding of the endless cycle of energy and matter, where we simply borrow matter and energy for a short time, until it gets recycled into something else.
It’s almost amusing to see how many seem to resist natural concepts such as the profoundness of death all the way to the mundane daily recycling, when Earth is one perfect example of a stand alone life support system with ecological systems that recycle every bit of matter and energy. A planet that one day might end up in a mega-cosmic bring-in-site similar to the Orion Nebula, that will eventually give rise to stars and planets stranger than our most fertile imagination can conjure, yet made of the same chemicals which we, and our surroundings, are currently made of.
VI. Under the August Moon…
According to the Mayans, a young orphan who lived with a poor old lady was feeling very lonely as the other men of the village did not let him go hunting with them. He envied them and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Armed with a crooked bow whose arrows hit him instead of propel forward, this little adventure was doomed to fail… and in fact, after a whole day of catching nothing, he was lost in the forest.
Out of this desperation, he began to play the bow like a musical instrument and sang about his troubles. Entranced by his singing, a beautiful deer approached him and stared at him in wonder. When he finally caught up with the deer, it turned into a beautiful girl with a beautiful dress of shimmering blue. He instantly fell in love, and she with him.
She proposed to marry him, and to take him home to live with her family. He readily agreed. The girl, it turned out, was a Goddess, and her mother was Grandmother of all
Growth and her father was the God of the Mountain. Her parents were not impressed with their daughter’s choice of a lonely mortal boy.
They both ran away and got married. She gave birth to two twins who turned out to be two plants of corn, one ivory-coloured and one amber-coloured. She was too exhausted to continue the journey, but sent her husband and the two children on to the village, making him promise to come back for her and not to forget her.
No wonder the Gods wept at their daughter’s choice of husband, despite her protestations that this one is different. She ended up dying for her love of the human.
After the hunter realized he has lost his beloved, he began to seek a way to bring her back again. A ray of hope was offered, but to do this, he had to go through a Herculean task…
That’s all for today. We are running out to prepare ourselves and we will see you at St Christopher`s Street in few hours.