storyteller's guide to the night sky

Nine moths ago, on August 21st in 2017, the Moon eclipsed the Sun and its shadow entirely bisected the United States, from sea to shining sea. Since nine months is the amount of time it takes for a normal human gestation, it’s fitting to consider that phenomenon then, and see what’s going on now.

 

 

 

This week the stage is set for some love tricks among the planets, with Jupiter and Venus facing one another across the great horizon of stars, and the crescent Moon sweeping in, to witness the goings on.

 

The set up of Moon and planets this week brings to mind an intriguing myth from the Ancient world that has to do with the God of the Olympians Jupiter/Zeus and his trick to get even with the Goddess of Love and Beauty, Venus/Aphrodite.  Here’s the set up:

earthsky.org

Jupiter comes to its annual opposition with the Sun this week, a king among gods, who’s appearing these nights as though he were stepping into the southern tray of the scales in the constellation Libra. Such a set up begs for a tale from “The Storyteller’s Night Sky” so here’s one!


The mighty constellation Hercules is rising up in the night sky this week, in the east after 10 pm, and bearing mystery in his wake.

 

Before the Ancient Greeks saw the hero Hercules in this region of sky, the constellation was known as the Kneeler, because the figure appears upside down on bended knee.

 

The Starry Crown after the Snow

Apr 24, 2018

Next week we’ll be halfway through Spring, and in the sky you’ll notice that the constellations of the bull and the giant are setting, while the golden crown and the lyre are rising. And if you want to make your way through the lingering snow on the ground this late in April, then consider this tale from the Brother’s Grimm.

 

The tale is “Mother Holle” and it’s got the usual set up of stepmother-dislikes-beautiful-stepdaughter-and-prefers-her-own. 

The April New Moon occurred Sunday, April 15, which means that night sky advocates around the world are celebrating International Dark Sky Week, with the intent to create greater awareness around light pollution and what it costs us in energy use, in habitat stewardship, and in our own health and well being.

 

I loved you, so I drew these tides of

Men into my hands

And wrote my will across the

Sky in stars…

 

As the giant constellation Orion sets in this season, the Earth tips perpendicular to the galactic plane, which means that for awhile, the Milky Way disappears from view. Historically, then, this is the season when sacred pilgrimages begin.

 

The moment of seasonal balance is upon us when the Sun reaches its Equinox moment at 12:15 pm on Tuesday, March 20th.  And this begs a question: Does observing Equinox bring balance into our ay of being? And if it does, can we identify what needs to take place to bring balance into our lives and into the world?

 

MSA

Venus has recently returned to the evening sky, and this week on Friday, the goddess of love and beauty moves across the celestial equator and is restored to the northern celestial hemisphere, just in time for all the spring festivals of renewal.

 

 

 


The forecast for high winds this week means that when March begins on Thursday, it may stay true to its reputation and come in like a lion, and go out like a lamb. But in case you think that reference is to the windy weather that marks the beginning of this month, I’m here to tell you that it’s actually a reference to the stars.

 

Despite what the newspaper horoscope says, the Sun has only just begun to move through the region of Aquarius stars at this time, setting up a powerful who’s-who-in-shaping-the-future-of-mankind-that-did-what-when kind of week.

 

The goddess of love and beauty returns to the evening sky this week, just in time for Valentine’s Day and New Moon!

 

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, and will be followed by the New Moon on Thursday, then on Friday, the barest sliver of young Moon will appear on the western horizon with Venus about 30 minutes after sunset. This will be a beautiful scene, if you can catch it!

 

There are three planets outside the orbit of the Earth that are visible to the naked eye: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. All three of them are visible in the morning sky this week, and the one I want to zero in on is Mars.

 

In many traditions it is understood that the passage from this world to the next is through the Moon sphere. This is a journey taken not only at birth and in death, but in sleep and dream, and even in the spiritual and scientific striving to know the worlds beyond our own. So what happens when there’s an eclipse, as there will be this week on Wednesday morning?

 

On Thursday morning this week, an hour before sunrise in the east, the Moon, Jupiter and Mars will make a particularly pretty showing that’s like a scene from the story of the goddess Ethuan in The Celtic Wonder Tales, where she is turned into a little golden fly because she has grown so weary of all the worlds.

MSA

 

The moon takes center stage here at the start of 2018, dusting off the remains of last year by coming to its closest or “Super Moon” full phase on New Year’s Day. The moon will race on to its next full phase again before January is even over. And you better make ready, because if you miss January 1st's full moon, you won’t see another one until March! That’s because January has two full moons this year, and the next one will be totally eclipsed. Then there’s no full moon in February.

The standing still of the Sun at Winter Solstice is a sacred moment that happens when the Sun appears in front of the thickest region of stars in our sky, the region where the constellation Sagittarius the archer is aiming his arrow toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

 

The Winter Solstice moment occurs this week on Thursday, December 21st at 11:28 am and when the Sun sets later that day, it will inaugurate many of the year’s most scared traditions. 

If you live in Michigan, then most likely you’re aware that on Mackinac Island, the main transportation asset is the horse, and every year in June, during the island’s lilac festival, there’s a blessing of the horses that takes place. This blessing is rooted in the 3rd century Gallo-Roman feast of Epona, goddess protector of horses and fertility. What’s interesting to me is that in addition to her feast day in June, Epona also enjoys a festival every year in December, on the 18th.

Throughout 2017, the planet Venus has been the guardian goddess of the dawn. But now that we approach the darkest time of year, this goddess, also the goddess of love and beauty has disappeared from view. Does this mean we have to live without love for a spell? The news of the day can certainly make it seem that way. But there’s a deeper mystery written in the sky right now, and it’s here we should cast our imaginations.

Every once in awhile we arrive at a week of celestial superlatives, and this week that straddles the end of November and beginning of December is just such a one. Mercury has recently moved as far away from the Sun it can get, just as the star that marks the Bull’s Eye comes to opposition, and the Moon comes to Full Phase closer to the Earth than any other Full Moon of 2017. What can we make of such a configuration?

It’s Thanksgiving week in America, so it’s time to ask whether there is an obvious festival of gratitude expressed in the stars that are overhead in this season?

One of the most brilliant stars in the sky right now is Capella, in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer, which is visible in the northeast at about 8 pm each night. 

Ditties in the sky: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Oct 30, 2017

The Milky Way can be seen arcing straight overhead in November, where we find the constellation Cassiopeia, the queen, nearly at the zenith.

“In folklore, angels tickle harps and the Devil plays the violin. So it is hardly surprising that extraordinary musical ability in mere mortals has long been explained by way of heavenly blessings or, more frequently, dark pacts…” So begins the tale of “The Dark Fiddler ~ The Life and Legend of Nicolo Paganini”.

I recently took my stories of the stars to Davenport, Iowa, and while I was there, I visited the Figge Museum downtown, where there was a fabulous exhibit of the art of Gary Kelley, for his book on the notorious 18th century Italian violinist Paganini.

The monarch butterfly migration has been terrific this year, so I’ve been researching stories and constellations to see if I could find some way to tie the migration into “The Storyteller’s Night Sky”, but try as I might, there’s nothing specific.

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