Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Korean Star Myth with Aquila and Lyra

Once upon a time a cowherd fell deeply in love with a woman weaver. They would see each other so often that the cows were neglected and the spinning wheel scarcely turned. The father of the weaver became so enraged by this slacking off (even in the name of love) that he banished the couple into the sky.

Their love was so strong that they fell into the sky hand in hand as if gravitationally attracted. It looked as if they would finally be together until a flock of magpies flew in between the two. Their hands separated and their bodies glided slowly but surely away from each other.  The lovers struggled to reconnect but it was no use. When they stuck to the heavens, the weaver was on one side of the great river in the sky (The Milky Way) and the cowherd fell on the opposite shore. The cowherd turned into the stars Altair, Tarazed, and Alshain in the constellation Aquila - the weaver turned into Vega and stars in Lyra.

According to this Korean legend, the couple could meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. Only then could they cross the river because of the magpies. Magpies in Korea flocked like crazy in July - and to atone for their role in separating the lovers, flew up to the stars to build a bridge across the river.  Only then could the couple meet on the backs of the magpies.  In Korea, children were taught to stone any magpies they saw not helping build that bridge.

When the meeting occurs on the seventh day of the seventh month, Altair and Vega shine in 5 colors to symbolize their happiness. Unfortunately, if it rains on July 7th, the couple fails to meet at all. 

Look for Vega high in the east and Altair lower in the southeast after dark.  And check out the lovers on July 7th to see them shine happily.