Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lyra the Harp

This constellation represents the musical instrument invented by the messenger god Hermes. It has also been visualized as an Eagle or Vulture. Although small, Lyra holds many bright stars including the fifth brightest star in the sky, Vega.

Vega is the brightest star in the Summer Triangle and is high overhead during the fall evenings. This blueish star is only 25 light years away and will replace Polaris as our Pole Star in about 12,000 years. Vega will be our distant ancestors' new North Star. Vega is also the place where an alien message originated in the fiction movie and book Contact.
Also called the “Queen of the Summer Skies”
“Falling Vulture” (Arab)
“Spinning Maiden” (Chinese/Korean)
“King Arthur’s Harp” (Britons)
“Fiddle in the Sky” (Bohemia)
Worshipped by ancient Egypt as early as 6000 BC

The Greek Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus was a tremendous harp player. He was the best that ever walked the Earth. His music was so sweet and pure that even the trees bent over to listen. The river ceased flowing, wild beasts became tame, even mountains listened with pleasure when Orpheus played his magical music.

One day he met a beautiful nymph named Eurydice. She too was mesmerized by Orpheus’ music and they fell in love and got married. Unfortunately, soon after the marriage, Eurydice was bit on the heel by a serpent and died. Orpheus was deeply saddened by her death and vowed to never play music again.

Well, no one was happy by this. Not even the gods. So the gods came to Orpheus and told him how he could cross over through the gates of death and retrieve his love Eurydice. Orpheus jumped at the idea and made the journey to the Underworld.

But first he had to deal with Hades, god of departed spirits. Hades was never anxious to let anyone leave his realm. But Orpheus began to play his harp, and Hades was so moved by the music that he agreed to release Eurydice to him on one condition (there’s always a condition). Orpheus had to walk in front of Eurydice all the way back to the land of the living. He was not allowed to turn around and look at her until they crossed through the gates of death.

Of course, Orpheus, being so much in love with this woman, could barely contain himself. They walked out of the Underworld in single file, Orpheus constantly listening for his beloved's soft footsteps. Upward and upward he marched never sure if Eurydice was there behind him. And he saw the end of the tunnel ahead - he had almost reached the light of day. But then doubt entered his head. Eurydice’s footsteps fell silent. Was she really there? Was he tricked by Hades? And if he went outside could he ever come back? Orpheus finally couldn't take it any longer and turned to look at his beloved. There she was, as radiant as he remembered her. And in another moment, her smile faded, faded, and she vanished forever.

Lyra, Orpheus’ harp remains in the sky as a reminder of true love, love lost, and why death is so hard to cheat.