by Boots Hart, CAP

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Geminid Meteor Shower

Geminids over Brasstown Bald Mountain (GA) by NASA
The Gemini meteor shower over Brasstown
Bald mountain in Georgia – photo credit: NASA/JPL

Every December, Earth encounters another of the yearly meteor showers. This one occurs around the 12th to 14th of the month, and in scientific terms is about Earth’s orbit taking it through a stream of pieces, particles and bits of a ‘source’ object. Like all other things, such bits and pieces are being drawn in towards the Sun by the incredible pull exerted by our star’s gigantic mass. That everything in our solar system doesn’t fall into the Sun is about such objects having their own mass and gravity – and the push/pull of centripetal versus centrifugal force.

But this is not science class! (Well, not precisely. The magical quality of metaphysics is that it bridges science, philosophy and spiritualism, so there is a deal of science which comes with it!)

More to our point here, like all meteor showers, the metaphor of the Geminids is all about their ability to represent how shooting ‘sparks’ of light and enlightenment “rain down” on us during this time. Yes, they come to us as out of the sky.

And yes, often out of what seems the dark of night!

A few interesting facts about the Geminids. One is that the meteors themselves generally appear to have a yellowish sort of hue. Another is that this is the only one of Earth’s yearly meteor showers which is fostered not by a comet, but an asteroid.

What’s the astrological difference? Well, as we discussed a blog or two ago, asteroids represent facets or factors – things we encounter or have to give some thought to on our way through any given process. Or while learning how to do something. Even when we’re thinking about what might happen if we try something…including whether it would matter! Or whether anyone would care about our effort, or like what we worked so hard to do!

Against this are the comets. Comets are asteroid-type objects which have an orbit which starts ‘way, way out there…’ and which comes way in towards the Sun with said orbit not being precisely around the Sun. Science has taught us that comets get ‘thrown’ into these orbits by various planets – notably Jupiter (knowledge) and Neptune (comprehension). And if you think about it, those precepts are pretty powerful things to ‘circle around’ and check out from various angles, right?

Comets bring outer body precepts to us at various intervals. If you study their cycles, you get the repeating aspect of life, Earth, society, mankind all getting ‘infusions’ of unheralded ideas every once in a rather predictable while.

Asteroids, on the other hand, are precepts we know. They’re "local'” to us, if also things we periodically have to deal with. And in this case, the asteroid which causes this month’s meteor shower – and which therefore should be given a moment of thought and attention – is Phaethon.

Fall of Phaeton by Johann_Michael_Franz The Fall of Phaethon by Johann Michael Franz

The story of Phaethon is all-too human…and all-too common. There comes a moment when Apollo, lord of light, truth, music and medicine, makes a deal with Phaethon when ends up with Apollo having granted Phaethon a wish.

And what is Phaethon’s wish? Still young, headstrong and full of that ‘I can do that’/’nothing can get me – I know everything I need to know just fine!’ sort of arrogant joie de vivre, Phaethon asks that Apollo let him drive the Chariot of the Sun for a day. He wants all his friends to see him as lord of the sky and master of the Sun. He can just see it everyone is going to envy him so!

After a little desperate (not to mention unsuccessful) attempt at bargaining, Apollo simply has to give in. After all, he’s lord of truth and honesty, so he’s made the promise and now is stuck with the promise.

Considering this is a Greek myth and there’d be little reason for the myth if something didn’t go wrong, the obvious obviously happens…Phaethon gets handed the reins of Apollo’s chariot and the fire-breathing horses of the day hitched to said chariot immediately sense the young man’s inexperience and ‘run away with him’ – a dramatic way of warning us not to take on that which we are not prepared to cope with.

In Phaethon’s case, the horses swoop close to the earth and set fire to people’s homes. Then they gallop away into the sky and get too close to the Sun itself. Known in Greece as Helios, the Sun-as-life force is too potent for any of us to cope with; another form of the lesson to not overstep our bounds.

But by now, Phaethon has lost all control. His hair is set afire. With skin (defenses) are scorched and burned, he abandons the reins (his hold on life) and plummets to his death in the ocean far, far below.

To have the shards of asteroid Phaethon ‘fall’ in towards the Sun is a metaphorical emblem of this story. That this happens during a time of year when so many are celebrating holidays and so many get depressed about the holidays and those they miss, the mistakes they’ve made…there is a tangible danger not just of overdoing the partying every year, but of abandoning all hope, as Dante put it.

And yes, there’s also a danger of abandoning our responsibilities to others – not merely the people we know, but people we don’t know or will never know. There’s a danger of forgetting the very world in our rush to celebrate and the incredibly focus on materialism, religious observances, whatever it is we focus on.

Phaethon overstepped his limits. Will we?

It’s probably also worth noting that Phaethon the asteroid is one of an asteroid family – the Palladians. The archetype asteroid here is Pallas, named for Pallas Athena, the not-at-all emotional goddess of intellectual wisdom born of rationalism.

A detail of a famous statue of Athena showing her
head as being ‘armored’ by a helmet, shielding her against passion

Whatever else we may want to draw from the story of Phaethon, that the asteroid is part of the Pallas family underscores the need to think things through not in emotional, but in logical terms.

Then there’s Phaethon’s orbit, which starts out in the asteroid belt (if pretty much on the near side of said asteroid belt). From there is comes in towards the Sun. It crosses Mars’ orbit. Then it crosses Earth’s orbit. Then it crosses Venus’ orbit. It even crosses the orbital path of Mercury – bringing it pretty darn close to the Sun.

Perhaps you remember the myth of Icarus, he who was given wax-and-feather wings with which to escape from captivity? Icarus also forgot the point – which was to escape, not to fly around having fun. So he too got too close to the Sun, whereupon the Sun melted the wax, sending Icarus plunging to his death.

The theme is obvious. But to the matter of Phaethon, in astronomical terms, asteroid Phaethon gets even closer to the Sun than Icarus does. So as much as we might want to think we would be cautious and logical now, will we? Probably not. And with the Geminid shower of 2010 occurring with under Mercury retrograde, we can expect a sense of internal strain. Things may not be difficult, but may well be interpreted as difficult – for any of a number of headstrong, willful, over-the-top reasons which bottom line pit our ability to be rational against our desire to escape who we are or where we are at the moment.

There's also the fact that at this moment, Phaethon is about to end its transit of Capricorn, the 'headstrong' problem signs of which we've seen in society...and in a lot of what we've had to do and tried to do of late.

Of course since we're talking about a meteor shower, there is also to consider the radiant (source) of the Geminids. The 'radiant' being that area of the sky that the meteor shower "appears" to come from, that – as the name suggests – is the constellation of the twins, that we call Gemini.

Gemini 4
Constellation Gemini
produced using Stellarium sofrware – B. Hart

For years Gemini was known as the sign which was allegedly about doing everything without ever making a choice. But when you do everything and never choose, you never accomplish anything.

That’s the heart of the Gemini challenge. All signs have their own challenge and Gemini’s (and that associated with its native 3rd house of any horoscope) is about making a choice, gathering information and putting that together as a cohesive, organized plan which gets you where you want to go.

In one piece – need I add that?

As a constellation, Gemini has three well known stars: Castor, Pollux and Alhena. But even before we discuss those, let’s take note of the fact that there are nebulae (swirls of energy) positioned to either side of the feet of the Gemini ‘twins.’ So either way we ‘choose to go,’ we need to expect some sort of turbulence. Some challenge. Life is not every just all peaches and cream. Nor, apparently, is it designed to be all peaches and cream!

Taken as a pair, Castor and Pollux are both about learning. Castor is about the polarity of creativity: about how learning more and becoming creative can either moves you forward and helps you become ever more productive…or corrupting you, destroying everything you’ve built or come to know, love and/or believe in.

Positioned at 19 Cancer, Castor was hit smack on by the July 2010 eclipse, wiping out a lot of efforts, status quos and plans people had going into that period. The clock is running on this eclipse – don’t expect to really ‘know’ what will come of this event until early 2013.

Pollux is the painful side of learning. Sometimes compared with the ‘tormented artist,’ Pollux is about the struggle everyone goes through to gain a measure of ‘light’ and ‘understanding’ or capacity in our life. Which yes, does draw an interesting line between Phaethon and Gemini.

But it’s Alhena which may be most crucial in understanding Gemini. Sometimes referred to as ‘the Mark of Cain’ or our ‘Achilles Heel’ Alhena refers to that which many of us refer to when we wonder what our ‘purpose’ is. If Gemini is anything, its about what we learn and what we make of ourselves through effort, through allowing ourselves to be distracted or making sure we keep on track with ourselves and stay organized with regards to our personal priorities.

Positioned at 22 Cancer, Pollux was opposed by the January 2010 Solar Eclipse, implying a confrontation and possible exacerbation of difficulties which reflect our internal 'light-and-dark’ and in doing so, expose us to our vulnerabilities.

With Alhena at 8 Cancer, it will be widely opposed by the January 2011 Solar Eclipse, challenging our priorities. Alhena will then be solidly conjuncted by a Solar Eclipse at 9 Cancer which will occur on July 1, 2011, changing many priorities general and specific.

Just to make this passage through the Geminids a little more exciting…there is also the fact that at this moment, Tantalus is entering Pisces.

But that’s a different blog. tantalized! Be very, very tantalized!

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