lundi 29 septembre 2008

Virgo 10

Virgin august! come in thy regal state
With soft majestic grace and brow serene;
Though the fierce Lion's reign is overpast
The summer's heat is all thine own as yet,
And all untouched thy robe of living green
By the rude fingers of the northern blast.
R. J. Philbrick's
the Anglo-Saxon Mæden, the Anglo-Norman Pulcele, the French Vierge, the Italian Virgine,Bayer's Junckfraw, and the present German Jungfrau, — in fact a universal title, — generally has been figured with the palm branch in her right hand and the spica, or ear of wheat, in her left. Thus she was known in the Attic dialect as Κόρη, the Maiden, representing Persephone, the Roman Proserpina, daughter of Demeter, the Roman Ceres; while in the Ionic dialect Nonnus, of our 5th century, called her σταχυώδης Κούρη, the Wheat-bearing Maiden, spicifera Virgo Cereris, the Virgo spicea munera gestans of Manilius. When regarded as Proserpina, she was being abducted by Pluto in his Chariot, the stars of adjacent Libra; and the constellation also was Demeter herself, the Ceres splendifera dea, changed by the astrologers to Arista, Harvest, of which Ceres was goddess. Caesius had it Arista Puellae, that would seem more correct as Aristae Puella, the Maiden of the Harvest.
Those who claim very high antiquity for the zodiacal signs assert that the idea of these titles originated when the sun was in Virgo at the spring equinox, the time of the Egyptian harvest. This, however, carries them back nearly 15,000 years, while Aratos said that Leo first marked the harvest month; so that another signification has been given to the word σταχυώδης. We read, too, that
In Ogygian ages and among the Orientals, she was represented as a sun-burnt damsel, with an ear of corn in her hand, like a gleaner in the fields;
and, like most of that class, with a very different character from that assigned to her by the classic authors. Is it not this ancient story of the Maiden of the Wheat-field that is still seen in the North English and South Scottish custom of the Kern-baby, or Kernababy, — the Corn, or Kernel, Baby, — thus described by Language in his Custom and Myth?
The last gleanings of the last field are bound up in a rude imitation of the human shape, and dressed in some rag-tags of finery. The usage has fallen into the conservative hands of children, but of old "the Maiden" was a regular image of the harvest-goddess, which, with a sickle and sheaves in her arms, attended by a crowd of reapers, and accompanied with music, followed the last carts home to the farm.
It is odd enough that the "Maiden" should exactly translate the old Sicilian name of the daughter of Demeter. "The Maiden" has dwindled, then, among us to the rudimentary Kernababy; but ancient Peru had her own Maiden, her Harvest Goddess.
And in Vendée the farmer's wife, as the corn-mother, is tossed in a blanket with the last sheaf to bring good luck in the subsequent threshing. Perhaps Caesius had some of this in view when he associated our sky figure with Ruth, the Moabitess, gleaning in the fields of Boaz.
Virgo also was Erigone, — perhaps from the Homeric Ἐριγένεια, the Early Born, for the constellation is very old, — a stellar title appearing in Vergil's apotheosis of his patron Augustus. This was the maiden who hung herself in grief at the death of her father Icarius, and was transported to the skies with Icarius as Boötes, and their faithful hound Maira as Procyon, or Sirius; all of which is attested by Hyginus and Ovid . It may have been this Icarian story that induced Keats' Lines on the Mermaid Tavern:
p462 Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac.
Sometimes she was figured with the Scales in her hands,—
Astraea's scales have weighed her minutes out,
Poised on the zodiac,—
whence she has been considered Δίκη, the divinity of Justice, the Roman Justa or Justitia; and Astraea, the starry daughter of Themis, the last of the celestials to leave the earth, with her modest sister Pudicitia when the Brazen Age began. Ovid wrote of this :
Virgo caede madentes,
Ultima coelestum, terras Astraea reliquit;
when, according to Aratos, she
Soared up to heaven, selecting this abode,
Whence yet at night she shows herself to men.
Thus she is the oldest purely allegorical representation of innocence and virtue. This legend seems to be first found with Hesiod, and was given in full by Aratos, his longest constellational history in the Phainomena. Other authors mentioned her as Εἰρήνη, Irene, the sister of Astraea, and the Pax of the Romans, with olive branch; as Concordia; as Παρθένος Δίος, the Virgin Goddess; as Σίβυλλα, the Singing Sibyl, carrying a branch into Hades; and as Τύχη, the Roman Fortuna, because she is a headless constellation, the stars marking the head being very faint.
Classical Latin writers occasionally called her Ano, Atargatis, and Derceto, the Syrorum Dea transferred here from Pisces; Cybele drawn by lions, for our Leo immediately precedes her; Diana; Minerva; Panda and Pantica; and even Medusa. Posidippus, 289 B.C., gave Thesbia or Thespia, daughter of Thespius, or of the Theban Asopus; and some said that one of the Muses, even Urania herself, was placed here in the sky by Apollo. Ἄσπολια is from Kircher, who in turn took it from the Coptic Egyptians, the Statio amoris, quem in incremento Nili dii ostendebant. This, however, is singularly like Ἡ Πολιάς, designating Minerva as guardian of citadels and the State, already seen as a title for this constellation; and there was a Coptic Asphulia in Leo as a moon station.
In Egypt Virgo was drawn on the zodiacs of Denderah and Thebes, much disproportioned and without wings, holding an object said to be a distaff marked by the stars of Coma Berenices; while Eratosthenes and Avienus identified her with Isis, the thousand-named goddess, with the wheat ears in her hand that she afterwards dropped to form the Milky Way, or clasping in her arms the young Horus, the infant Southern sun-god, the last of the divine kings. This very ancient figuring reappeared in the Middle Ages as the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus, Shakespeare alluding to it in Titus Andronicus as the
Good Boy in Virgo's lap; and Albertus Magnus, of our 13th century, asserted that the Saviour's horoscope lay there. It has been said that her initials, MV, are the symbol for the sign, ♍; although the International Dictionary considers this a monogram of Παρ, the first syllable of Παρθένος, one of Virgo's Greek titles; and others, a rude picturing of the wing of Istar, the divinity that the Semites assigned to its stars, and prominent in the Epic of Creation.
This Istar, or Ishtar, the Queen of the Stars, was the Ashtoreth of the 1st Book of theº Kings, xi.5, 33, the original of the Aphrodite of Greece and the Venus of Rome; perhaps equivalent to Athyr, Athor, or Hathor of the Nile, and the Astarte of Syria, the last philologically akin to our Esther and Star, the Greek Ἀστήρ. Astarte, too, was identified by the Venerable Bede with the Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, at whose festival, our Easter, the stars of Virgo shine so brightly in the eastern evening sky; and the Sumerians of southern Babylonia assigned this constellation to their sixth month as the Errand, or Message, of Istar.
In Assyria Virgo represented Baaltis, Belat, Belit, and Beltis, Bēl's wife; while some thought her the Mylitta of Herodotus. But this was a very different divinity, the Babylonian Molatta, the Moon, the Mother, or Queen, of Heaven, against whose worship the Jews were warned in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, xliv.17, 19, and should not be confounded with Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, that our figure symbolized.
In India Virgo was Kanya, the Tamil Kauni, or Maiden, — in Hyde's transcription, Kannae, — mother of the great Krishna, figured as Goddess sitting before a fire, or as a Gūl; and in the Cingalese zodiac as a Woman in a Ship, with a stalk of wheat in her hand. Al Bīrūnī thought this ship marked by the line of stars β, η, γ, δ, and ε, like a ship's keel. Varāha Mihira borrowed the Greek name, turning it into Parthena, Partina, or Pathona.
In Persia it was Khosha, or Khusāk, the Ear of Wheat, and Secdeidos de Darzama, this last often translated the "Virgin in Maiden Neatness"; but Ideler, doubting this, cited Beigel's conjecture that it was a Persian rendering of Stachys, one of the Greek titles of Virgo's star Spica. Bayer had it Seclenidos de Darzama.
The early Arabs made from some members of the constellation the enormous Lion of their sky; and of others the Kennel Corner, with dogs barking at the Lion. Their later astronomers, however, adopted the Greek figure, and called it Al ʽAdhrāʼ al Naṭhīfah, the Innocent Maiden, remains of which are found in the mediaeval titles Eladari, Eleadari, Adrendesa, and in the Adrenedesa of Albumasar. But as they would not draw the human form, they showed the stars as a sheaf of wheat, Al Sunbulah, or as some stalks with the ripened ears of the same, from the Roman Spica, its brightest star. Kazwini gave both of these Arabian names, the last degenerating into Sunbala, found in Bayer, and Sumbela, still occasionally seen. The Almagest of 1515 says Virgo est Spica.
The Turcomans knew the constellation as Dufhiza Pakhiza, the Pure Virgin; and the Chinese, as She Sang Neu, the Frigid Maiden; but before their Jesuit days it was Shun Wei, which Miss Clerke translates the Serpent, but Williams, the Quail's Tail, a part of the early stellar figure otherwise known as the Red Bird, Pheasant, or Phoenix.
It appears as Ki, the 20th in the Euphratean cycle of ecliptic constellations, and considered equivalent to Asru, a Place, i.e. the moon station that Spica marked; but Jensen thinks that the original should be Siru, or Shiru, perhaps meaning the "Ear of Corn"; much of this also is individually applied to Spica.
In the land of Judaea Virgo was Bethūlah, and, being always associated with the idea of abundance in harvest, was assigned by the Rabbis to the tribe of Asher, of any Jacob had declared "his bread shall be fat." In Syria it was Bethulta.
Thus, like Isis, one of her many prototypes, Virgo always has been a much named and symbolized heavenly figure; Landseer saying of it, "so disguised, so modernized and be-Greek'd. . . that we literally don't know her when we see her."
In astrology this constellation and Gemini were the House of Mercury, Macrobius saying that the planet was created here; the association being plainly shown by the caduceus of that god, the herald's trumpet entwined with serpents, instead of the palm branch, often represented in her left hand. But usually, and far more appropriately, Virgo's stars have been given over to the care of Ceres, her namesake, the long-time goddess of the harvest. For her astrological colors Virgo assumed black speckled with blue; and was thought of as governing the abdomen in the human body, and as bearing rule over Crete, Greece, Mesopotamia, Turkey, Jerusalem, Lyons, and Paris, but always as an unfortunate, sterile sign. Manilius asserted that in his day it ruled the fate of Arcadia, Caria, Ionia, Rhodes, and the Doric plains. Ampelius assigned to it the charge of the wind Argestes, that blew to the Romans from the west-southwest according to Vitruvius , or from the west-northwest according to Plinx.
The latter said that the appearance of a comet within its borders implied many grievous ills to the female portion of the population.
Virgo was associated with Leo and with the star Sirius in the ancient opinion that, when with the sun, they were a source of heat; Ovid alluding to this in his Ars Amatoria:
Virginis aetheriis cum caput ardet equis.
And John Skelton, the royal orator of King Henry VII, wrote:
In autumn when the sun in Virgine
By radiant heat enripened hath our corne.
A coin of Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, bears her figure with the wheat ear in her left hand and a staff in her right; and the stateres of Macedonia have much the same. The Alfonsine Tables showed her as a very young girl with wings; the Leyden Manuscript and the Hyginus of 1488, as a young woman with branch and caduceus; and the Albumasar of 1489, as a woman with a fillet of wheat ears. The old German illustration also gave her wings, but dressed her in a high-necked, trailing gown; and Dürer drew her as a lovely winged angel.
Julius Schiller used her stars to represent Saint James the Less, and Weigel, as the Seven Portuguese Towers.
But all these figurings, ancient as some of them may be, are modern when compared with the still enduring Sphinx generally claimed as prehistoric, perhaps of the time of the Hor-she-shu, long anterior to the first historical Egyptian ruler, Menes; and constructed, according to Greek tradition, with Virgo's head on Leo's body, from the fact that the sun passed through these two constellations during the inundation of the Nile. Some Egyptologists, however, would upset this astronomical connection of the Virgin, Lion, and Sphinx, Mariette claiming the head to be that of the early god Harmachis, and others as of an early king.
Ptolemy extended the constellation somewhat farther to the east than we have it, the feet being carried into the modern Libra, and the stars that Hipparchos placed in the shoulder shifted to the side, to correct, as he said, the comparative distances of the stars and members of the body. Upon our maps it is about 52° in length, terminating on the east at λ and μ, and so is the longest of the zodiac figures. It is bounded on the north by Leo, Coma Berenices, and Boötes; on the east by Serpens and Libra; on the south by Hydra, Corvus and Crater; and on the west by Leo, Crater, and Corvus.
While the beautiful Spica is its most noteworthy object to the casual observer, yet the telescope shows here the densest nebular region in the heavens, in the space marked by its β, η, γ, δ, and Denebola of Leo; while other nebulae are scattered all over this region of the sky. Sir William Herschel found here no less than 323, which later search has increased to over 500, — very many more nebulae than naked-eye stars in the constellation. Argelander gives 101 of the latter, and Heis 181.
It is for these four stars in Virgo, forming with ε two sides of a right-angled triangle open towards Denebola, γ at its vertex, that Professor Young uses his mnemonic word Begde to recall their order. They extend along the wings through the girdle, and were the Kennel Corner of the Barking Dogs of the Arabs, often considered as the Dogs themselves.
Von Zach, of Gotha, rediscovered here on the last day of the first year of this century the minor planet Ceres, whose position had been lost some time after its discovery by Piazzi on the previous New Year's Day; Olbers repeating this, and independently, the next evening, the first anniversary of the original discovery. Here, too, Olbers found, on the 28th of March, 1802, another minor planet, Pallas, the second one discovered, and appropriately named, for the thirty-first of the Orphic Hymns described this goddess as "inhabiting the stars."
The sun passes through the constellation from the 14th of September to the 29th of October; and during this time
the Virgin trails
No more her glittering garments through the blue.

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