This post originally was published over at Fellowship and Fairydust.
Tonight, the Fall time really feels like it’s settling in now. Thank God. I’ve been waiting all year for cool nights like this. I’m wondering if I can take my window-unit air conditioners down at this point. Then again, Oklahoma tends to have extreme weather changes sometimes. For all I know, it could be 85 degrees Fahrenheit by Tuesday. As a matter of fact, I actually think there was an F-1 tornado over in Seminole when the cold front came in.
In any event, I’m just enjoying my chair, resting my legs from a week of work, embracing the nice, clean air, and letting my mind wander a bit like I sometimes do. I’m wondering if I should put some money down on a Savinelli Churchwarden Rustic 601 Tobacco Pipe. I’m interested in a deeper bowl and a longer stem so that I can actually enjoy the flavor of the tobaccos I occasionally buy. My favorite two, currently, are cherry and blackberry. They smell delicious and natural, but once I get to lighting my pipe, I’m just puffing on fire. I think it’s because of the shorter pipe stem. So maybe a longer draw will help enhance the smoking experience.
And seeing as how my mind is in such a contented state right now, and effervescent creative thoughts are swirling around in my imagination, and the atmosphere has the wonderful petrichor odor that comes after a good rain, and I have a minute to ponder the meaning of the universe…my thoughts turn toward astronomy, one of my favorite subjects.
An Event From Uranus Last Week
Last Thursday, it was actually possible to view the planet Uranus with the naked eye. It is visible in the constellation of Pisces.
While this uncommon treat is not an extreme rarity–like the other phenomenon we’ve discussed this year–it does get the mind to wondering. Uranus has been visible with the naked eye before; for example, you could also see it with your eyes in September of 2013. But it’s not an everyday occurrence. You’d definitely be able to see it with binoculars, though. And for the rest of October, you’ll be able to see Uranus with a telescope.
For the longest time, people thought that you could only see five planets in the sky. They thought that Saturn was the farthest planet that you could possibly discern. But then, in 1781, Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus when he thought he was actually identifying a new comet.
Herschel’s finding thrilled the world. Nothing like this had been discovered ever since Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, almost a century and a half earlier. The thought that there were planetary bodies beyond Saturn filled everyone’s imagination, and Herschel became a celebrity throughout Europe.
King George the III was agog about the discovery of a new planet. His Majesty adored the sciences. And in honor of the king, William decided he would name the planet Georgium Sidus, or “George’s Star.” However, America’s rebellion against the crown was still red hot in everyone’s memory, and the Whigs of England were demolishing the reputation of King George. The name would not do. So, the planet was simply known as “Herschel” for the next 70 years, until it was eventually renamed Uranus.
The Meaning of Uranus
Uranus is the supreme god of gods in the Greek pantheon. He’s bigger than Zeus, and he’s bigger than Chronos the titan, Zeus’ father. In Greek mythology, in the beginning there was Uranus and Gaia. Everyone else came from those two. Gaia was the Earth, and Uranus was the universe. Uranus was the supreme primordial god–though, in Hesiod’s Theogeny, Uranus was also conceived from Gaia alone, even though he would become her husband.
So ancient is Uranus that he is not a common god or deity referred to in Greek culture. He is at the top of the family tree. All Greek gods came from him and his union with Gaia. He was the sky itself. Not only did the union of Uranus and Gaia bear the twelve titans of old myth, but their union also gave way to two classes of giants–the Hekatonkheires and the Cyclopes.
After the conception of his children, Uranus had his own children imprisoned within the Earth in a place called Tartarus, and there they caused Gaia great pain. So with the permission of their mother, her children came out of the earth, and Cronus, took a sickle and castrated his own father.
Uranus’ blood spilled onto the Earth and became giants, furies, and nymphs. His genitals were cast into the sea and became Aphrodite. The bloodied sickle is said to have been buried either near Sicily, or cast into the ocean near Bolina or Corcyra. And so, after castrating his own father, Cronus was destined to have his own son, Zeus, overcome him as he did his own father.
The story of Uranus was not a common tale, nor was it regularly expressed much by the Greeks. Uranus was a “vanquished god of an elder time, before real time began.” While his story is animated and clearly pagan, if there were a Greek equivalent to Christendom’s God the Father, Uranus would be it.
The Meaning of Pisces
A constellation of the zodiac, Pisces sort of resembles a bent line with a ball at the end of it. In Greek myth, Pisces is associated with Aphrodite and Eros. Those two Greek gods, better known as Venus and Cupid, escaped from a monster named Typhon by leaping into the sea and transforming themselves into fish. In order not to lose each other, they tied themselves together with rope.
The constellations of these two love gods, ironically, is also a constellation that bears much significance to Christianity.
In the sign of Pisces, we see two fish that are facing away from each other. Christ says to the Centurion: “I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
In our skies, the two fish of Pisces are tied together by a knot, and that knot is represented by the star Alpha Piscium–which, coincidentally, is a binary star. The band that holds the two fish together unifies them in a chaotic universe that would otherwise tear them apart from one another. The band of Pisces was actually once known as Alrescha in the Arabic, which means “the well rope.”
Yet the opposite directions of the fish have further significance.
One fish represents the Old Testament era of the Church, when the just and upright went to Abraham’s bosom to await their coming liberation with Christ’s visit to the underworld. Known as The Harrowing of Hell, this story truly does sound as a sort of typology when we reflect back to the story of Cronus and his siblings being freed from the depths of the Earth.
The second fish represents the New Testament era of the Church, an era of redemption. The second fish swims upward, just as all good men swim upward towards Heaven. This second fish–like the Christians of our age–have a proper direction and avenue. We now know where to go, and that way is forward towards Christ, not backwards or in any other strange direction. The age of confusion, paganism, and uncertainty is behind us now.
One lost fish–who would be otherwise lost–is tethered to the other. If I may colorfully elaborate, it is as though an alien federation has found us earthlings, and they have introduced us to a federation of planets that comprise the rest of the galaxy. Or, to be more down to earth, the new age inaugurated by Christ is akin to when Christopher Columbus reached across the Atlantic to bring the American Natives into communion with the rest of the world. With Pisces, we see two forces tied together and unified so they never get lost in an endless sea of danger.
And just as the two fish swim through the waters, so also do the children of God swim through the waters of their baptism. They are cleansed, and in this new age we can be cleansed daily through the sacrament of reconciliation. It is not a cosmic coincidence that the constellation of Aquarius–a man who is emptying a jug of water–stands above the constellation of Pisces, pouring his water upon the two fish as if they are engaged in their own cosmic baptism.
But even more than all of this symbology and typology, even more than all of this ancient foretelling, prefiguring, and fulfilling–there is the raw fact that Christ came in the Age of Pisces. The Age of Pisces began in Year One A.D. And when you consider this–can you begin to now realize some of the amazing literary parallels that God weaves in his tale with humankind? God uses everything in a grand mosaic that we cannot fathom.
Just think of how Jesus Christ employs fishing and fishermen as his metaphors. And even before that, consider how the story of Jonah is a story of a type of Christ who emerges from a great fish’s belly after three days, appearing to rise from death. Recall the symbolism of the Ichthys–the Jesus Fish, as it was known among the Greeks.
God has put a story in the heavens and in our histories, and He has baptized it all.
When we see Uranus move in to the constellation of Pisces, what we can also metaphorically take in is the idea of our elder God, God the Father, reminding us all of the fact that we are in an age of His Church. We are in a time in the cosmos in which His Son went into an underworld and rose up out of it again in triumph.
Cronus bested his father Uranus, but unlike that misguided pagan myth–almost a correction of it–Jesus Christ works in full cooperation and love with His Father in Heaven. When Our Lord emerged from Sheol, he fulfilled His Father’s promises and brought us an era of mercy. God the Father reminds us that Christ tied us to Him, and will take us to Heaven if we allow Him to and don’t try to slip away.
Just as the two fish of Pisces were once regarded as lesser gods of love, so too is this constellation a reminder to us of the love that Christ–God’s son–has for His Church. With our Lord in Heaven, He will take us away to escape from our own Typhon monster–the Devil Himself. Baptized in the waters and graces that God will freely pour upon us, we can escape through the turmoil of the cosmos and join ourselves to our Father in Heaven.