by Boots Hart, CAP

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Leonid Meteor Shower

An 1889 engraving of the Leonid meteor shower by
Adolf Vollmy (from an earlier painting).

It's time for another meteor shower...the metaphysical equivalent of ideas being 'showered' upon us.
And since this one comes from comet Tempel-Tuttle, that's where we will go (first) to contemplate what these ideas are about. Or what they're meant to prompt.

When officially 'discovered' on January 6, 1866, comet Temple-Tuttle was at it's perihelion (closest point to Earth) in Leo. From that, we can take a theme that Temple-Tuttle (and ideas associated with it) have to do with how/whether we are willing to stretch our boundaries and do, be, and make more of ourselves or from whatever our abilities/resources.

The common things associated with Leo are children, amusement parks, dating, art projects, athletic training and competitions, hobbies...all of which are areas which are what we might call the "second step" in the greater fixed sign cycle. That cycle, one which is intrinsic to human development, is in each of our lives the challenge to "make something of ourselves and our lives" which works socially and in society, which changes social trends and/or society and which creates a place for us socially and in the greater social world.

It's a whole interesting subject, fixed signs - and for you horoscope gazers, the houses associated with them.

For the moment, all we'll say is that Leo is the second step in the process: the recognizing that something might be possible...but that it might not work out the way you like. Kids, dating, any of these come with a guarantee of fun, pleasure and success? 

Uh, no. Unfortunately no - but no. Kids can be the bane of their parents or grow up to be mass murders, dating can be a disaster and we can be plum terrible at some sport or lose every competition we get into.

In every case, Leo is a two part challenge. One, will we that the chance and take on the risk? And two, how well do we deal with the ups and downs, the 'yay's and 'oy veys!' which come with such efforts? Leo is a fire sign land of imagination. And there's no doubt but that imagining what we could do or what fun and glorious things could happen serve as motivation to entice us into the risk.

NGC 3627 - also known as Messier 66
photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The problem is when those ideals or expectations get dashed. Or when we so prefer the ideal or expectation that we substitute it for the truth - or reject that some of our best lessons come not through the victories, but through the failures.

A couple of days ago a friend reminded me of a story about Jonas Salk, the man who (eventually, after many a trial and error) came up with the polio vaccine, virtually wiping polio off the map. He'd had a bunch of failed efforts along the way and after the great triumph of the effective vaccine became word of the day, an interviewer asked Dr. Salk how he felt about those failures. How terrible was it to live through all those disappointments?

Nonsense! Dr. Salk rejected the whole idea. I needed every one of those failures - they are what taught me what would actually work. (Not an exact quote, but you get the idea...)

That's a really good theme for the whole Leo spectrum. And if we look at when this 'founding comet' of the Leonid shower was when discovered, we see that at that moment Sedna - the symbol of our need to let go of childish expectations so that we can create instead of being provided for - Sedna was at 29 Pisces, the last degree of the zodiac.

(article on SEDNA)

That's a pretty good hint that Tempel-Tuttle (and thus  ideas 'showered' upon us as Earth passes through its wake) are about things ripe to pass away...but which we are reluctant to let go of.

Obviously the Sun isn't passing through Leo at the moment. But if the originating point of the meteor shower which began on the 10th and which reaches its peak now on November 21th (extending on through the 21st) ...if the comet which produces this meteor shower is at its closest point to us when in Leo, then Leo's positives, negatives and dynamics are both what test us now...and what in the end are the tools which solve our problems. 

The Leo problem list: arrogance, selfishness/self-centerness, willful blindness, foolish risks, needing to be right, stubbornness, and procrastination based on over-focusing on ego (who me, risk being wrong?), grandiosity, rebelliousness.

Leo strengths: courage, foresight, generosity of spirit, strength-in-supportiveness, humor, creativity, strength, clever/innovative ideas, leadership, protectiveness, willingness to shoulder burdens in a good cause, conviction, nobility.

 Constellation Leo at November 17, 2010 with its
major stars and some surrounding nebulae
(yellow circles) labeled.

(image produced by B. Hart, CAP using Stellarium software) 

Being that we're looking to this 'area' of the sky as the point at where comet Tempel-Tuttle 'delivers' its message, considering a few of the stars - as apart from the constellation Leo - may also suggest a few themes.

Without question, the most famous of the Leo stars is royal star Regulus. Like all of the great Persian 'royal stars,' Regulus represents great potential for success in whatever area of the chart it falls IF we can avoid a certain sort of human failing. With Regulus, the tendency is that to crave or act on a desire for revenge.

And though most of us thing of 'revenge' as the knife wielding fantasy, that's not the whole score. 'Revenge' can be anything from the need for passive-aggressive "mistakes" and "forgetting" to spiteful tit-for-tat, or - quite in keeping with Leo challenges - the need to quash, squash, overpower, overlord...or simply be better than somebody else.

Or everyone else, yes. That too.

Another famous Leo star is Denebola, a star which is about breaking with convention, and how doing so can bring on persecution or be the sign of a persecutor.

Of course with enough internal strength, Denebola could also be a sign of genius. Or the sign of the defender against persecution. But this does take dear effort - at a level which challenges one's desire to simply shine by being apart and being different and proving your point - because its yours...which is dangerously close, and maybe the essence of self-undoing here.

The last of the three stars we're going to toss into this pot-full of discussion is Zosma. Said to represent the lion's back, Zosma figures in a story told about Hercules, where the great hero breaks a lion's back. Traditionally associated with the 'breaking' of the feminine (receptive-responsive) tradition this first labor of Hercules stresses the lion's role as fighter as opposed to defender of the pride.

Lion of Nemea
by Peter Paul Rubens

And yet...maybe we need to rethink this image. Seeing that we're talking about humans here - about points in each one of our charts, is this 'the pride' or 'our pride'?

One other note about Zosma is its association with the natural world - the Wiccan (Sacred Witch's) reverence for nature and Hercules' 'superhuman' persecution thereof.

Ultimately, maybe the most important thing we need to know about Tempel-Tuttle is that it's a comet. At its greatest distance from the Sun, Tempel-Tuttle is 19.69 astronomical units from its star.

To put that in perspective, Uranus is at its farthest, 20.083 au from the Sun...and at its closest, 18.375 au from the Sun. So this comet's metaphysical "origination" space is definitely Uranian. Thus what it brings to us is change.

At its nearest, Tempel-Tuttel doesn't come quite as near to us as asteroid Apollo (light/enlightenment) does. Nor even as close as hasty, 'leap before you look' Icarus does. But it does cross both their orbits. So whatever kinds of 'change' this comet represents, it's more of a 'boat rocking' mechanism than an actual cosmic alarm clock going off.

Nor is Tempel Tuttle at its closest position just now. Having reached that (the perihelion) point back just a couple of years ago, it's on its way "back out." The implication is thus that we're dealing with changes which have already come upon us. Or that we've been shown we need to change...and that change is now in the air. We're ready to change. We're ripe for change.

And let's not forget - the peak of this 'shower of ideas' (maybe nudges? maybe urgings?) is happening as Venus and Jupiter are both on station.

This is thus a great time to let yourself grow. Not go - grow! It's a moment to grapple with our own Nemean Lion, for sorting out how we really feel about the nature of our nature, sorting the Zosma from the Denebola (as it were) in deciding the difference between our uniqueness and where we are perhaps merely in rebellion. How do we stand apart? And are we standing apart from ourselves, persecuting perhaps that intrinsic quality (or persecuting ourselves for having some quality) which we see as a weakness...but which really could - and should be - a personal strength?

Every year at about this time, planet Earth passes through the realm of Leonid meteors: streaks of light in our night which in moments unsuspected fall upon us, sparking renewed recognition of the wonder which is our human heart, mortal soul and spirit of conviction.

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