The Night Sky Above Eleusis

In the pre-electric classical age, persons woke with the sun
and went to bed with nightfall.  Many festivals - including the
Eleusinian Mysteries -  had a nocturnal element.  The night
was almost completely black, only a sliver of a crescent
moon offering bare illumination.  The glory of the sky lay
open to any who looked up.

Poetic fancy saw in the Milky Way a road, either the road of
the gods, or the road by which stood the palaces of the gods,
or the road traveled by the souls of the dead, or the path of
the sun.  Initiates possibly read a tapestry of stories relating
to the experience they underwent.

(The information following is excepted from Theony Condos'
Star Myths of the Greek and Romans:  A Sourcebook
Containing The Constellations of Pseudo-Erasthenes and the
Poetic Astronomy of Hyginus.)

It would seem safe to say that the Greeks of the eighth and
seventh centuries BCE distinguished at least four
constellations – or five if Homer’s Bootes is counted.










Bootes:
“Hermippus who wrote about the stars, says that Ceres
mated with Iasion, the son of Electra; and many, including
Homer, say that because of that union, as the historian
Petellides of Cnossus recounts, two sons were born,
Philomelus and Plutus, who were said to be at odds with one
another, because Plutus, who was wealthier, gave none of
his wealth to his brother.  Pressed by circumstances,
Philomelus took all he had and brought two oxen, then
invented the plow.  And thus, by plowing and cultivating the
fields, he was able to feed himself.  His mother, marveling at
his inventions, placed him among the stars as a ploughman,
and called him Bootes.”  












Gemini “Others say the figures are Hercules and Apollo,
some even say Triptolemus, about whom we spoke earlier,
and Iasion, who were both beloved of Ceres…”

•        In antiquity, the atmospheric phenomenon now known
as St. Elmo’s fire was associated with the Dioscuri and was
interpreted as a favorable omen when it appeared with two
flames, but unfavorable if it appeared with only one flame.











Hydra, Crater, Corvus  “Concerning the Crater, Phylarchus
tells this story.  In the Chersonesus, which is located near
Troy, where the tomb of Protesilaus lies, there is a city called
Eleusa.  During the reign of a certain Demiphon, widespread
devastation and an unexpected plague befell the city.  
Demiphon, greatly perturbed, sent to the oracle of Apollo to
inquire how the devastation might be halted.  The response
of the oracle was that a maiden of noble birth must be
sacrificed each year on the altar of the city’s gods.  
Demiphon, choosing the maidens by lottery, sacrificed all
other daughters save his own, until one of the well-born
citizens complained of the practice of Demiphon.  This man
said he would not allow his daughter to be part of the lottery
unless the daughters of the king were part of it as well.  The
king was angered and, selecting that man’s daughter without
a lottery, put her to death.  The maiden’s father, Mastusius by
name, pretended at the time that he would not be angry
since the deed was done on behalf of their country, for the
lot might have fallen to her later, and she might have
perished nonetheless.  After a few days, the father of the
maiden lulled the king into forgetfulness, then, when he had
shown himself to be most kindly disposed to the king,
claimed that he was preparing a solemn sacrifice and invited
the king and his daughters.  The king, not suspecting that
anything untoward was about to happen, sent his daughters
ahead as he was occupied with matters of state and planed
to come later.  When what Mastusius had greatly hoped for
happened, he slew the king’s daughters and, mixing their
blood with the wind in the wine-jar, ordered that it be offered
to the king to drink as he approached.  When the king looked
for his daughters and discovered what had happened to
them, he ordered that Mastusius be thrown into the sea,
along with the wine-jar.  For that reason, the sea into which
he was thrown was called Mastusian in his memory, and the
port to this day called Crater (“wine-jar”).  The ancient
astronomers configured it among the stars so that men
might be reminded that no one can profit from an evil deed,
and that evil deeds cannot be forgotten.














Virgo “Some day it is Demeter because of the sheaf of grain
she holds, others say it is Isis…”
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