Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Gobekli Tepe/Portasar and the Summer Triangle

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 2, 2015

Gobekli Tepe/Portasar

Sumer

Urartu/Armenia

The Cygnus Mystery

The Cygnus Mystery

Niddhöggr, Yggdrassils Askr, and the Swan Song of Cyngus

The Summer Triangle

Summer Triangle, an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn on the northern hemisphere’s celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Altair, Deneb, and Vega, the brightest stars in the three constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra, respectively.

Near midnight, the Summer Triangle lies virtually overhead at mid-northern latitudes during the summer months, but can also be seen during spring in the early morning to the East. In the autumn the summer triangle is visible in the evening to the West well until November. From the southern hemisphere it appears upside down and low in the sky during the winter months.

Vulpecula is a faint constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for “little fox”, although it is commonly known simply as the fox. It was identified in the seventeenth century, and is located in the middle of the Summer Triangle (an asterism consisting of the bright stars Deneb, Vega and Altair).

In the late 17th century, the astronomer Johannes Hevelius created Vulpecula. It was originally known as Vulpecula cum ansere (“the little fox with the goose”) or Vulpecula et Anser (“the little fox and the goose”), and was illustrated with a goose in the jaws of a fox.

Hevelius did not regard the fox and the goose to be two separate constellations, but later the stars were divided into a separate Anser and Vulpecula. Today, they have been merged again under the name of the fox, but the goose is remembered by the name of the star α Vulpeculae: Anser.

Alpha Vulpeculae (Alpha Vul, α Vulpeculae, α Vul) is the brightest star in the constellation Vulpecula. It has a traditional name, variously represented as Lukida, Lucida Anseris, or Anser, a tradition kept from when the constellation had the name Vulpecula et Anser ‘the fox and the goose’.

Gobekli tepe

Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) is an archaeological site at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (984 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,493 ft) above sea level. It was excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014.

The tell includes two phases of ritual use dating back to the 10th-8th millennium BCE. The purpose of the structures is not yet clear. Excavator Klaus Schmidt believed that they are early neolithic sanctuaries.

During the first phase, pre-pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and a weight of up to 20 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock.

In the second phase, pre-pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. Topographic scans have revealed that other structures next to the hill, awaiting excavation, probably date to 14-15 thousand years ago, the dates of which potentially extend backwards in time to the concluding millennia of the Pleistocene. The site was abandoned after the PPNB-period. Younger structures date to classical times.

At this early stage of the site’s history, circular compounds or temene, a piece of land cut off and assigned as an official domain, especially to kings and chiefs, or a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god, a sanctuary, holy grove or holy precinct, first appear. They range from 10 to 30 metres in diameter. Their most notable feature is the presence of T-shaped limestone pillars evenly set within thick interior walls composed of unworked stone. Four such circular structures have been unearthed so far.

Geophysical surveys indicate that there are 16 more, enclosing up to eight pillars each, amounting to nearly 200 pillars in all. The slabs were transported from bedrock pits located approximately 100 metres (330 ft) from the hilltop, with workers using flint points to cut through the limestone bedrock.

Two taller pillars stand facing one another at the centre of each circle. Whether the circles were provided with a roof is uncertain. Stone benches designed for sitting are found in the interior. Many of the pillars are decorated with abstract, enigmatic pictograms and carved animal reliefs. The pictograms may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere.

The reliefs depict mammals such as lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles and donkeys; snakes and other reptiles, arthropods such as insects and arachnids; and birds, particularly vultures. There are so many different types of zoomorphic images that it has so far proved impossible for anyone to interpret or bracket all their intended symbolism, if indeed this is was it is meant to be.However, there seems to be a clear preference of interest in snakes and birds, like the vulture.

Whereas the vulture is associated with death and rebirth, as it is at Çatal Hüyük, the snake played a slightly different role among the PPN communities. The snake is universally a symbol of birth, new life, transformation, cosmic creation and divine knowledge and wisdom.

The Neolithic period’s highly prominent cult of the dead was focused around excarnation, and the use of the vulture as a symbol of both astral flight and the transmigration of the soul in death. Clear carvings and depictions of vultures, as well as representations of birdmen, have been found at Göbekli Tepe and other PPN sites in SE Turkey and North Syria.

At the time the edifice was constructed, the surrounding country was likely to have been forested and capable of sustaining this variety of wildlife, before millennia of settlement and cultivation led to the near–Dust Bowl conditions prevalent today. Vultures also feature prominently in the iconography of Çatalhöyük and Jericho.

It is believed that in the early Neolithic culture of Anatolia and the Near East the deceased were deliberately exposed in order to be excarnated by vultures and other carrion birds. The head of the deceased was sometimes removed and preserved — possibly a sign of ancestor worship. This, then, would represent an early form of sky burial, as still practiced by Tibetan Buddhists and by Zoroastrians in Iran and India.

Altair

Altair (α Aquilae, α Aql) is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila and the twelfth brightest star in the night sky. The name Altair has been used since medieval times. It is an abbreviation of the Arabic phrase النسر الطائر, an-nasr aṭ-ṭā’ir (“English: the flying eagle”). The term Al Nesr Al Tair appeared in Al Achsasi al Mouakket’s catalogue, which was translated into Latin as Vultur Volans.

This name was applied by the Arabs to the asterism of α, β, and γ Aquilae and probably goes back to the ancient Babylonians and Sumerians, who called α Aquilae the eagle star. The spelling Atair has also been used. Medieval astrolabes of England and Western Europe depicted Altair and Vega as birds.

In Chinese, the asterism consisting of α, β, and γ Aquilae is known as hegu (lit. “river drum”). Altair is thus known as hegu er (lit. “river drum two”, meaning the “second star of the drum at the river”).

However, Altair is better known by its other names: qianniu xing or niulang xing, translated as the cowherd star. These names are an allusion to a love story, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, in which Niulang (represented by Altair) and his two children (represented by β and γ Aquilae) are separated from respectively their wife and mother Zhinu (represented by Vega) by the Milky Way. They are only permitted to meet once a year, when magpies form a bridge to allow them to cross the Milky Way.

Aquila

Aquila is a constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for ‘eagle’ and it represents the bird who carried Zeus/Jupiter’s thunderbolts in Greco-Roman mythology. Aquila lies astride the celestial equator. The alpha star, Altair, is a vertex of the Summer Triangle asterism. The Greek Aquila is probably based on the Babylonian constellation of the Eagle (MUL.A.MUSHEN), which is located in the same area as the Greek constellation.

Aquila was also known as Vultur volans (the flying vulture) to the Romans, not to be confused with Vultur cadens which was their name for Lyra. It is often held to represent the eagle who held Zeus’s/Jupiter’s thunderbolts in Greco-Roman mythology. Aquila is also associated with the eagle who kidnapped Ganymede, a son of one of the kings of Troy (associated with Aquarius), to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods.

According to Gavin White, the Babylonian Eagle carried the constellation called the Dead Man (LU.USH) in its talons. The author also draws a comparison to the Classical stories of Antinous and Ganymede.

In classical Greek mythology, Aquila was identified as Αετός Δίας (Aetos Dios), the eagle that carried the thunderbolts of Zeus and was sent by him to carry the shepherd boy Ganymede, whom he desired, to Mount Olympus; the constellation of Aquarius is sometimes identified with Ganymede.

In the Chinese love story of Qi Xi, Niu Lang (Altair) and his two children (β and γ Aquilae) are separated forever from their wife and mother Zhi Nu (Vega) who is on the far side of the river, the Milky Way. In Hinduism, the constellation Aquila is identified with the half-eagle half-human deity Garuda.

Garuda

The Garuda is a large bird-like creature, or humanoid bird that appears in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Garuda is the mount (vahana) of the Lord Vishnu, also known as Narayana and Hari, who is one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta tradition, where he is conceived as “the Preserver or the Protector”.

Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila. The brahminy kite and phoenix are considered to be the contemporary representations of Garuda. Indonesia adopts a more stylistic approach to the Garuda’s depiction as its national symbol, where it depicts a Javanese eagle (being much larger than a kite).

The story of Garuda’s birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata. According to the epic, when Garuda first burst forth from his egg, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic conflagration that consumes the world at the end of every age. Frightened, the gods begged him for mercy. Garuda, hearing their plea, reduced himself in size and energy.

Throughout the Mahabharata, Garuda is invoked as a symbol of impetuous violent force, of speed, and of martial prowess. Powerful warriors advancing rapidly on doomed foes are likened to Garuda swooping down on a serpent. Defeated warriors are like snakes beaten down by Garuda. The field marshal Drona uses a military formation named after Garuda. Krishna even carries the image of Garuda on his banner.

According to the Mahabharata, Garuda had six sons (Sumukha, Suvarna, Subala, Sunaama, Sunethra and Suvarchas) from who were descended the race of birds. The members of this race were of great might and without compassion, subsisting as they did on their relatives the snakes. Vishnu was their protector.

Garuda’s father was the creator-rishi Kasyapa, an ancient sage (rishi) who is counted as one of the Saptarishis in the present manvantara (the others are Atri, Vashistha, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gautama Maharishi).

Garuda and Aruna (”Morning”), a personification of the reddish glow of the rising Sun, which is believed to have spiritual powers, are the sons of Kashyapa from his wife Vinata, the mother of birds. The presence of Aruṇá, the coming of day, is invoked in Hindu prayers to Surya.

Vinata is one of the thirteen daughters of Prajapati Daksha. She got married to Kashyapa along with her 12 sisters, and bore him two sons, named Aruṇá, and Garuda known as Suparna, , bringing them out as eggs.

Kadru was the younger sister of Vinata, and when they both lived with Kashyapa as his wives and attended to all his comforts he blessed them by granting each of them a boon. Kadru asked for a thousand nāga or serpent sons who should be valiant.

Prompted by her sister’s demand for sons, Vinata asked for only two sons who should be more powerful and bright than Kadru’s children. Kashaya granted them their wishes. After his wives became pregnant, he advised them to look after the children, and then left for his penance in the forest.

After a long time Kadru gave birth to a thousand eggs and Vinata to two eggs. The eggs were carefully incubated in containers with hot water or in jars which were kept warm. After a lapse of five hundred years, the eggs laid by Kadru hatched and her sons came to life; of these thousand nāga sons, the most prominent ones were Shesha, Vasuki and Takshaka. All the serpents born in this world are the descendants of these thousand sons.

Vinata became jealous as her eggs had not hatched. In a moment of haste, she broke open one of the eggs, revealing a half-formed son. This son was enraged by his physical form and cursed his mother for her hasty act, saying she would be a slave to Kadru for five hundred years till the son from her second egg was born. He became a charioteer and herald for the sun god and the creator of the red sky at dawn, and was therefore named Aruṇa.

Eventually, after five hundred years, Vinata’s second son Garuda was born in the form of a huge bird with immense power. As soon as he was born he flew away with grace, seeking food.

Vinata was promised that her sons would be powerful if she waited for them to hatch from their eggs. However, her impatience to hatch them took root, and she broke one of them. From the broken egg a flash of light, Aruṇá, sprang forth. He was as radiant and reddish as the morning sun. But, due to the premature breaking of the egg, Aruṇá was not as bright as the noon sun as he was promised to be. Aruṇá’s brother, Garuda, was born regularly, and eventually became the main vehicle of Vishnu.

Aruṇá is sometimes considered a part of Surya, as he is the vision and driving force behind its path through the sky. In some stories, Aruṇá drives the chariot of Surya, while in others, he is a manifestation of Surya, serving as a sign of the coming of the Sun. Aruṇa is also believed to be the father of Jatayu and Sampati (King of the Vultures), who are both mentioned in the Ramayana.

Wat Arun (“Temple of Dawn”) is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Yai district of Bangkok, Thailand, on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna and is among the best known of Thailand’s landmarks. The first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence.

Kashyapa was the father of the devas, asuras, nāgas and all of humanity. He married Aditi, with whom he fathered Agni, the Adityas, and most importantly Lord Vishnu took his fifth Avatar as Vamana, the son of Aditi, in the seventh Manvantara. With his second wife, Diti, he begot the Daityas. Diti and Aditi were daughters of King Daksha Prajapati and sisters to Sati, Shiva’s consort. Kashyapa received the earth, obtained by Parashurama’s conquest of King Kartavirya Arjuna and henceforth, earth came to be known as “Kashyapai”.

The Prajapati Daksha gave his thirteen daughters (Aditi, Diti, Kadru, Danu, Arishta, Surasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Idā, Vishva and Muni) in marriage to Kashyapa, who in addition to the daughters of Daksha also married Syeni who had a son (a great bird) named Jatayu, and Unmathi who had a son (also a great bird) called Sampati.

Vali and Sugreeva are also said to be the sons of Kashyapa. He also had a wife named Surabhi, who gave birth to the Rudras and a wife named Rohini, who gave birth to the cattle.

Deneb

Deneb (α Cyg, α Cygni, Alpha Cygni) is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus and one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle. Deneb is also easily spotted as the tip of the Northern Cross asterism made up of the brightest stars in Cygnus, the others being Beta (Albireo), Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon Cygni.

The name Deneb is derived from dhaneb, the Arabic for “tail”, from the phrase ذنب الدجاجة Dhanab ad-Dajājah, or “tail of the hen”. Similar names were given to at least seven different stars, most notably Deneb Kaitos, the brightest star in the constellation Cetus; Deneb Algedi, the brightest star in Capricornus; and Denebola, the second brightest star in Leo. All these stars are referring to the tail of the animals that their respective constellations represent.

In the Chinese love story of Qi Xi, Deneb marks the magpie bridge across the Milky Way, which allows the separated lovers Niu Lang (Altair) and Zhi Nü (Vega) to be reunited on one special night of the year in late summer. In other versions of the story Deneb is a fairy who acts as chaperone when the lovers meet.

Cygnus

Cygnus is a northern constellation lying on the plane of the Milky Way, deriving its name from the Latinized Greek word for swan. The swan is one of the most recognizable constellations of the northern summer and autumn, it features a prominent asterism known as the Northern Cross (in contrast to the Southern Cross).

In Greek mythology, Cygnus has been identified with several different legendary swans. Zeus disguised himself as a swan to seduce Leda, Spartan king Tyndareus’s wife, who gave birth to the Gemini, Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra; Orpheus was transformed into a swan after his murder, and was said to have been placed in the sky next to his lyre (Lyra); and the King Cygnus was transformed into a swan.

The Greeks also associated this constellation with the tragic story of Phaethon, the son of Helios the sun god, who demanded to ride his father’s sun chariot for a day. Phaethon, however, was unable to control the reins, forcing Zeus to destroy the chariot (and Phaethon) with a thunderbolt, causing it to plummet to the earth into the river Eridanus.

According to the myth, Phaethon’s brother, Cycnus, grieved bitterly and spent many days diving into the river to collect Phaethon’s bones to give him a proper burial. The gods were so touched by Cycnus’s devotion to his brother that they turned him into a swan and placed him among the stars.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, there are three people named Cygnus, all of whom are transformed into swans. Alongside Cycnus, noted above, he mentions a boy from Tempe who commits suicide when Phyllius refuses to give him a tamed bull that he demands, but is transformed into a swan and flies away. He also mentions a son of Neptune who is an invulnerable warrior in the Trojan War who is eventually defeated by Achilles, but Neptune saves him by transforming him into a swan.

Together with other avian constellations near the summer solstice, Vultur cadens and Aquila, Cygnus may be a significant part of the origin of the myth of the Stymphalian Birds, a group of birds in Greek mythology, one of The Twelve Labours of Hercules.

The Stymphalian Birds are man-eating birds with beaks of bronze, sharp metallic feathers they could launch at their victims, and poisonous dung. They were pets of Ares, the god of war. They migrated to a marsh in Arcadia to escape a pack of wolves. There they bred quickly and swarmed over the countryside, destroying crops, fruit trees, and townspeople.

The Stymphalian birds were defeated by the hero Heracles (Hercules) in his Sixth Labour for Eurystheus. Heracles could not go into the marsh to reach the nests of the birds, as the ground would not support his weight. Athena, noticing the hero’s plight, gave Heracles a rattle which Hephaestus had made especially for the occasion.

Heracles shook the rattle and frightened the birds into the air. He then shot many of them with arrows tipped with poisonous blood from the slain Hydra. The rest flew far away, never to plague Arcadia again. Heracles brought some of the slain birds to Eurystheus as proof of his success. The surviving birds made a new home on an island in the Euxine Sea. The Argonauts later encountered them there.

Vega

Vega (α Lyr, α Lyrae, Alpha Lyrae) is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus. It is a relatively close star at only 25 light-years from Earth, and, together with Arcturus and Sirius, one of the most luminous stars in the Sun’s neighborhood, and is a corner of the Summer Triangle.

The name Wega (later Vega) comes from a loose transliteration of the Arabic word wāqi‘ meaning “falling” or “landing”, via the phrase an-nasr al-wāqi‘, “the falling eagle”. The term “Al Nesr al Waki” appeared in the Al Achsasi al Mouakket star catalogue and was translated into Latin as Vultur Cadens, “the falling eagle/vulture”.

The constellation was represented as a vulture in ancient Egypt, and as an eagle or vulture in ancient India. The Arabic name then appeared in the western world in the Alfonsine Tables, which were drawn up between 1215 and 1270 by order of Alfonso X. Medieval astrolabes of England and Western Europe used the names Wega and Alvaca, and depicted it and Altair as birds.

The Assyrians named this pole star Dayan-same, the “Judge of Heaven”, while in Akkadian it was Tir-anna, “Life of Heaven”. In Babylonian astronomy, Vega may have been one of the stars named Dilgan, “the Messenger of Light”. To the ancient Greeks, the constellation Lyra was formed from the harp of Orpheus, with Vega as its handle. For the Roman Empire, the start of autumn was based upon the hour at which Vega set below the horizon.

In Chinese mythology, there is a love story of Qi Xi in which Niu Lang (Altair) and his two children (β and γ Aquilae) are separated from their mother Zhi Nü (lit. “Weaving Girl”, Vega), who is on the far side of the river, the Milky Way.

However, one day per year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, magpies make a bridge so that Niu Lang and Zhi Nü can be together again for a brief encounter. The Japanese Tanabata festival, in which Vega is known as orihime, is also based on this legend.

Vega is mentioned in a Chinese legend about Zhang Qian, though some argue that the historical person is not the subject of the legend; he just shared a name. It was said that he was commissioned to find the source of the Yellow River, which was believed to flow from heaven as a continuation of the Milky Way.

After sailing up-river for many days, he saw a girl spinning and a cow herd. Upon asking the girl where he was, she presented him with her shuttle with instructions to show it to the astrologer Yen Chün-p’ing. When he returned, the astrologer recognised it as the shuttle of the Weaving Girl (Vega), and, moreover, said that at the time Zhang received the shuttle, he had seen a wandering star interpose itself between the Weaving Girl and the cow herd.

In Hindu mythology, Vega is called Abhijit. The author of Mahabharat, Maharshi Vyas, mentions in the chapter Vana Parva (Chap. 230, Verses 8–11): “Contesting against Abhijit (Vega), the constellation Krittika (Pleiades) went to “Vana” the summer solstice to heat the summer. Then the star Abhijit slipped down in the sky.”

I. V. Vartak suggests in his book, The Scholarly Dating of Mahabharat, that the “slipping of Abhijit” and ascension of Krittika (Pleiades) might refer to the gradual drop of Vega as a pole star since 12,000 BC. Vega is expected to become Earth’s pole star by the year 26,000 by some estimates.

Medieval astrologers counted Vega as one of the Behenian stars and related it to chrysolite and winter savory. Cornelius Agrippa listed its kabbalistic sign under Vultur cadens, a literal Latin translation of the Arabic name. Medieval star charts also listed the alternate names Waghi, Vagieh and Veka for this star.

The Pole / Northern Star

Each night the positions of the stars appear to change as the Earth rotates. However, when a star is located along the Earth’s axis of rotation, it will remain in the same position and thus is called a pole star, a visible star, preferably a prominent one, that is approximately aligned with the Earth’s axis of rotation; that is, a star whose apparent position is close to one of the celestial poles, and which lies approximately directly overhead when viewed from the Earth’s North Pole or South Pole.

A similar concept also applies to other planets than the Earth. In practice, the term pole star usually refers to Polaris, which is the current northern pole star, also known as the North Star. The south celestial pole lacks a bright star like Polaris to mark its position. At present, the naked-eye star nearest to this imaginary point is the faint Sigma Octantis, which is sometimes known as the South Star.

While other stars’ apparent positions in the sky change throughout the night, as they appear to rotate around the celestial poles, pole stars’ apparent positions remain virtually fixed. This makes them especially useful in celestial navigation: they are a dependable indicator of the direction toward the respective geographic pole although not exact; they are virtually fixed, and their angle of elevation can also be used to determine latitude.

The identity of the pole stars gradually changes over time because the celestial poles exhibit a slow continuous drift through the star field. The primary reason for this is the precession of the Earth’s rotational axis, which causes its orientation to change over time.

If the stars were fixed in space, precession would cause the celestial poles to trace out imaginary circles on the celestial sphere approximately once every 26,000 years, passing close to different stars at different times. The stars themselves also exhibit proper motion, which causes a very small additional apparent drift of pole stars.

The direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation gradually changes over time in a process known as the precession of the equinoxes. A complete precession cycle requires 25,770 years, during which time the pole of the Earth’s rotation follows a circular path across the celestial sphere that passes near several prominent stars.

At present the pole star is Polaris, but around 12,000 BC the pole was pointed only five degrees away from Vega. Through precession, the pole will again pass near Vega around AD 14,000. It is the brightest of the successive northern pole stars.

In Japan, the Pole Star was represented by Myōken Bosatsu, a bodhisattva (the Sanskrit term for a being with bodhi or enlightenment), who is the deification of the North Star. In the Greek Magical Papyri the Pole star was identified with Set-Typhon, and given authority over the gods. In Hindu mythology, the pole star is called Dhruva, a devotee of the Supreme God Vishnu. In Hawaiian mythology, the pole star is called Kiopa’a. In Chinese mythology, Emperor Zhuanxu, a mythological emperor of ancient China, is mentioned as a god of the Pole Star.

Lyra

Lyra (Latin for lyre, from Greek λύρα) is a small constellation. The area corresponding to Lyra was seen by the Arabs as a vulture or an eagle carrying a lyre, either enclosed in its wings, or in its beak. Lyra was often represented on star maps as a vulture or an eagle carrying a lyre, and hence sometimes referred to as Aquila Cadens or Vultur Cadens.

Beginning at the north, Lyra is bordered by Draco, Hercules, Vulpecula, and Cygnus. Lyra is visible from the northern hemisphere from spring through autumn, and nearly overhead, in temperate latitudes, during the summer months. From the southern hemisphere, it is visible low in the northern sky during the winter months.

In Greek mythology, Lyra represents the lyre of Orpheus. Made by Hermes from a tortoise shell, it was said to be the first lyre ever produced. Orpheus’s music was said to be so great that even inanimate objects such as trees, streams, and rocks could be charmed. Joining Jason and the Argonauts, his music was able to quell the voices of the dangerous Sirens, who sang tempting songs to the Argonauts.

At one point, Orpheus married Eurydice, a nymph. While fleeing from an attack by Aristaeus, she stepped on a snake that bit her, killing her. To reclaim her, Orpheus entered the Underworld, where the music from his lyre charmed Hades. Hades relented and let Orpheus bring Eurydice back, on the condition that he never once look back until outside.

Unfortunately, near the very end, Orpheus faltered and looked back, causing Eurydice to be left in the Underworld forever. Orpheus spent the rest of his life strumming his lyre while wandering aimlessly through the land, rejecting all marriage offers from women.

There are two competing myths relating to the death of Orpheus. According to Eratosthenes, Orpheus failed to make a necessary sacrifice to Dionysus due to his regard for Apollo as the supreme deity instead. Dionysus then sent his followers to rip Orpheus apart.

Ovid tells a rather different story, saying that women, in retribution for Orpheus’s rejection of marriage offers, ganged up and threw stones and spears. At first, his music charmed them as well, but eventually their numbers and clamor overwhelmed his music and he was hit by the spears. Both myths then state that his lyre was placed in the sky by the muses.

Vega and its surrounding stars are also treated as a constellation in other cultures. The area corresponding to Lyra was seen by the Arabs as a vulture or an eagle carrying a lyre, either enclosed in its wings, or in its beak. In Wales, Lyra is known as King Arthur’s Harp (Talyn Arthur), and King David’s harp. The Persian Hafiz called it the Lyre of Zurah. It has been called the Manger of the Infant Saviour, Praesepe Salvatoris.

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