Wednesday 23 November 2011

Star Gayzing 3


Today sees the beginning of the horoscope sign Sagittarius. Ask anyone what the constellation represents and they’ll say an archer. Some may even say it is the centaur Chiron, teacher, mentor and occasional lover of heroes. You’ll often see Sagittarius depicted in horoscopes as a centaur, but he isn’t one. Chiron the centaur is already represented in the constellation Centaurus so he doesn’t need another one.

The Sagittarius centaur actually derives from the Babylonian god Pabilsag, a half-horse, half-man, winged deity with 2 heads (one of a man, the other of a dog) firing a bow and arrow. Occasionally the Babylonians depicted the constellation as the Wildman Enkidu (mentioned last month in the entry on Scorpio), who was created to show the legendary hero King Gilgamesh the benefits of love.

The Ancient Greeks saw Sagittarius not as a centaur but as a satyr called Krotos. He was the son of Pan and was brought up with the Muses, the 9 sisters who presided over art, science and culture. Legend says it was Krotos who invented the act of applause in response to pleasure at the works of the Muses.

Krotos was the opposite of everything the Greeks thought about satyrs. He was cultured, educated and, above all, sexually restrained. The sexual appetite of satyrs was uncontrolled. Their prowess was seen as hyper-masculine and as such they were spoken of as having sex with both men and women. The satyrs were companions of Dionysios, the god of wine, who has sometimes been described as a bisexual deity embodying both male and female qualities. Indeed, Dionysios has been claimed by as the patron god of transvestites and hermaphrodites. As god of wine he was also associated with parties and, with his sexually promiscuous companions the satyrs, also of orgies.

Krotos was not like the other satyrs. As he lived his whole life with 9 women, didn’t have children, or to have any known boy-lover, we begin to wonder about his sexuality. Perhaps he was asexual.

The centre of our galaxy is situated in Sagittarius where the densest part of the Milky Way stretches across the sky. Greek mythology gives an account of its creation and name. It features the hero Herakles (=Hercules). Hercules is recorded as having more male partners and boyfriends than any of the heroes – at least 3 – as well as being the lover of Chiron the alleged Sagittarius centaur.

There are several versions of the legend. One says the goddess Hera is tricked into believing that Hercules was her own son (which he isn’t). Seeing the baby Hercules her maternal instincts take over and she suckles him. Even before he could walk Hercules shows his great strength. He clamps his mouth on Hera’s breast causing her pain. In agony she throws the child away and her milk sprays across the sky forming the Milky Way. The Greek word for milk is “gala” and from this comes the word “galaxy”, the word used for the Milky Way since the 14th century.

Next month we learn about more satyrs and the Pan-sexual Capricorn, and how it is connected to the gaps in Saturn’s rings.

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