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Posts Tagged ‘Thuban’

  Arthur, a Bear in the Sky

zodiac arthur (DR)

            ‘Onward the kindred Bears, with footsteps rude,

             Dance round the pole, pursuing and pursued.’ —Erasamus Darwin

Where else shall we look for Arthur in the night sky? When he is on the hunt with Gwyn ap Nydd (King of the Otherworld), we can find him in the winter sky with his sword Excalibur, and his dog Cabal (Orion the Hunter and Sirius) but there are other constellations, which traditionally hold his memory, and connect him to an important transition from dragon, to bear in the sky.

OrionSirius     If Arthur is much older than the medieval tales written about him, we may find clues in the stars about his early existence and genealogy. Because he is ‘Arth’ the Bear, we will look for him among the celestial bears. Polaris, the North Star, our pole star at the present time is part of Ursa Minor (the small bear), the still point around which the Northern heavens turn. Like Arthur this guiding star never sets and does not disappear with the change in season.

ursaminor1

One of the many names for Ursa Major, Large Bear, is Arthur’s Wain, his chariot, which he rides round the still point of the pole star in the sky.

‘Arthur’s slow wain his course doth roll,

In utter darkness, round the pole’. –Walter Scott

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Due to the tilt of the earth, the role of the pole star passes from one star to another. Since the precession of the equinoxes takes about 25,770 years to complete a cycle, a single star typically holds that place for many centuries. It is estimated that Polaris became the pole star about 3400 BCE. Before this, the still point of the Northern sky was Thuban, a serpent star found in the constellation, Draco, the Dragon.   Arthur’s father was Uther Pendragon, the ‘head’ or ‘chief dragon’ At one time the constellation Draco appeared much larger and the Bears were held within his coils.

‘With vast convolutions Draco holds

Th’ ecliptic axis in his scaly folds.

O’er half the skies his neck enormous rears,

And with immense meanders parts the Bears’ –Erasmus Darwin

421px-Sidney_Hall_-_Urania's_Mirror_-_Draco_and_Ursa_Minor

Was this switch of polestars a reason for the theme of ‘vanquishing’ the dragon in so many Arthurian stories? As the star in the tail of the Bear become central to the Northern skies, was this reflected in stories of a royal Bear (Arthur) who had replaced a Dragon (Uther Pendragon)? Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon abdicated his central place as the star around which the heavens revolve, but, just as in the Arthurian story, this did not happen all at once. Arthur, who had been raised by a foster family, had to prove his right to kingship.

chariot and zodiac1

Both bear and dragon represent earth energy, but, like Thuban, the Dragon, has become more difficult to access. Arthur was the heir of an ancient tribe, the Dragon clan, and the founder of another tribe, the Bear clan now living under a new pole star.   Merlin foretells all this to Uther, Arthur’s father, from a cosmic event:

‘Thou shalt be king of the whole of Britain!   For yon star doth betoken thee, and the fiery dragon that is under the star! The ray, moreover that stretcheth forth towards the region of Gaul, doth portend that a son shall be born unto thee that shall be of surpassing mighty dominion, whose power shall extend over all that realms that lie beneath the ray.’

Geoffrey of Monmouth

To make this mythology more complex and intriguing, King Arthur, the mythological ancestor, has no legitimate descendant, no heir, unless it is all of the British people. Instead he returns, like the Sun at the winter solstice, sometimes called Alban Arthuan (the light of Arthur).

Big-Dipper-Arcturus-with-Void_edited-1

     Another heavenly bear we might associate with Arthur is Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, the Herdsman. Arthur is connected in two ways. Arcturus was a Medieval spelling of Arthur, and it means ‘Bear Guardian.’ In a medieval variation on the story of his final journey to Avalon, Arthur is transported to Boötes where he lives forever in a crystal palace of Arcturus.

‘Up to the riche sterri briht dongoun-

Astronomeers weel reherse kunne

Callid Arthuris constellacioun…

Wher he sit crowned in the heunly mansioun

   Amyd the paleis of stonis cristallyne nyne.’ 
–John Lydgate

 

Arcturus is a transitional figure who symbolizes the passage between the nomadic hunter’s way of life to the settled farmer. Nomadic people look to the stars for direction and guidance on their journey, while farmers note the stars for seasonal changes in the growing cycle.   According to Ptolemy, Arcturus has the nature of Jupiter and Mars, a combination of which defines the spiritual warrior. This is the star of a powerful leader. Because Arcturus spans the border between the circumpolar and equatorial stars he is seen as indication of a leader who protects his people as they move toward new ways of life.

chauvetBear-1

Arthur’s story may begin at the transition between a Paleolithic hunter to the Neolithic farmer and herdsman and then reemerge at the time of change from tribal leaders to a more unified model of a kingdom under a single monarch. Arthur’s place among the bears in the sky is an indication of how old this story may be and how deep an imprint it has upon our imagination. He is the Bear of Paleolithic hunters amidst the most Northern stars, and the warrior king of Arcturus, who leads his people to a new concept of national identity.

Arthur’s Court in the Sky

cropped-the-last-sleep-of-arthur-in-avalon

‘Ye intelligent Druids,


Declare to Arthur,


What is there more early


Than I that they sing of.’—Taliesin

 Celtic-Harp

            In every generation, poetry and song keep the story of Arthur alive. In light of that, it’s not surprising that Talyn Arthur (Harp of Arthur) was the name used by the Britons for the constellation, Lyra. If we are going to look for the Arthur’s court in the sky we might find Taliesin, the Bard and harpist of Arthur’s Court here in Talyn Arthur. He has his own epic stories, but occasionally is added to Arthur’s retinue as a mark of respect for both of them. The constellation Lyra is associated with Venus and Mercury by Ptolemy for they are the planets of beauty and communication, love and magic. This constellation is associated with a harmonious, poetic nature, skills in science and art, mixed with a bit of thievery, all part of the nature of Taliesin as well as Venus and Mercury.

Talyn Arthur

The most visible star in Talyn Arthur is Vega, one of the brightest stars in the summer sky. Vega was the pole star between 12,000 and 10,000 BCE. The Greeks connected Vega with their musician-magician Orpheus who shared many of the same magical, as well as musical talents of Taliesin. Like its constellation Lyra, it is associated with Venus and Mercury by Ptolemy, good planets for an artist or musician.

Vega is one of three bright stars from three different constellations which form an asterism, the Summer Triangle. The other two stars are Deneb from Cygnus the Swan, and Altair from Aquila the Eagle.   On summer nights when these three stars stand out so brightly, I imagine them as Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot. Arthur might be Vega in Talyn Arthur; Deneb shines for Guenevere in Cygnus the Swan; and Lancelot with Altair the bright star of Aquila the Eagle. Their love and friendship creates an evolving equilibrium, a triangle so powerful and eternal that it is reflected in the brightest stars of the summer sky.

Summer-Triangle-wide-May-162

Deneb, Guenevere’s star in the Summer Triangle is part of the constellation, Cygnus the Swan, a bird associated with Venus. Deneb, the bright star in the swan’s tail, like Vega is associated with Venus and Mercury. Guenevere, so often abducted and returned unharmed, is much like the planet Venus who appears, then disappears as evening star to reappear at dawn. Guen as a prefix also means white or light and Venus is often called ‘the shining one.’ The older Celtic name for Venus was Windo-seibari, a white phantom, ghost, goddess, who binds through words, verbal magic, an association with Mercury. The constellation Cygnus, where Vega dwells can also be connected to shamanic practices for it was common for the Druid shaman to wear a cloak made of swan feathers.

swans in building

If we link Lancelot with Altair, the brightest star in the constellation, Aquila, the eagle, we get a flavor of Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter and Mars contact in a chart often marks a spiritual warrior. Those who have this combination will take action (Mars) to protect and serve their spiritual ideals (Jupiter). Lancelot is a spiritual warrior with a blend of Jupiter and Mars characteristics. Associated with courtesy and honor, Lancelot is gentle and complex. Altair is associated with daring, but also with relationship and deep caring for others. There is the watery side of Lancelot as well. He is the foster child of the Lady of the Lake, and must battle not only physical danger, but enchantment. As a link between the worlds of fairy and human he moves between the two realities, each with a desire for dominance. Lancelot was asked to choose between these two worlds, choose between the woman he loved and his love and loyalty to Arthur. As the bright star in the constellation Eagle, he flies above these demands.

aquila_fig

The Summer Triangle is a symbol of how three bright stars from three adjoining star patterns have come quite recently to be seen as a new star pattern. In the same way, the triangle created by Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot marks an evolutionary way of looking at men and women, at relationship and the mystery that lies behind these stories reflected in the earth and in the sky.

To be continued………

Keeping our Ancient Wisdom Alive
The Wisdom Tradition evolved over the centuries to address our deepest human needs. Sarah Fuhro is a practitioner of its many forms; including Astrology, Tarot, Flower Essences and Druidry. In addition to personal consultations, Sarah teaches workshops and private classes, offering both clients and students knowledge powerfully rooted in the past, presented in the language of the present.  To learn more, please visit www.sarahfuhro.com.

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