Sunday, September 20, 2015

Carpe Diem #823 Ophiuchus (Serpent bearer)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

What a joy to present an all new episode in our space odyssey in which we are discovering the constellations in our Universe ... today another not so well known constellation, Ophiuchus (Serpent bearer), actually I really didn't know of this constellation and several others as we already encountered on our odyssey. I think the most of us will only know the constellations of the Zodiac and maybe (as we call them here in The Netherlands) "the big bear" and "the small bear".

Let us take a closer look at Ophiuchus or "the Serpent bearer". Ophiuchus is a large constellation located around the celestial equator. Its name is from the Greek "serpent-bearer", and it is commonly represented as a man grasping the snake that is represented by the constellation Serpens.

Credits: Ophiuchus (Serpent bearer)
There is no evidence of the constellation preceding the classical era, and in Babylonian astronomy, a "Sitting Gods" constellation seems to have been located in the general area of Ophiuchus. However, Gavin White proposes that Ophiuchus may in fact be remotely descended from this Babylonian constellation, representing Nirah, a serpent-god who was sometimes depicted with his upper half human but with serpents for legs.

The earliest mention of the constellation is in Aratus, informed by the lost catalogue of Eudoxus of Cnidus (4th century BC):

[...] To the Phantom's back the Crown is near, but by his head mark near at hand the head of Ophiuchus, and then from it you can trace the starlit Ophiuchus himself: so brightly set beneath his head appear his gleaming shoulders. They would be clear to mark even at the midmonth moon, but his hands are not at all so bright; for faint runs the gleam of stars along on this side and on that. Yet they too can be seen, for they are not feeble. Both firmly clutch the Serpent, which encircles the waist of Ophiuchus, but he, steadfast with both his feet well set, tramples a huge monster, even the Scorpion, standing upright on his eye and breast. Now the Serpent is wreathed about his two hands – a little above his right hand, but in many folds high above his left. [...]

To the ancient Greeks, the constellation represented the god Apollo struggling with a huge snake that guarded the Oracle of Delphi. Later myths identified Ophiuchus with Laocoön, the Trojan priest of Poseidon, who warned his fellow Trojans about the Trojan Horse and was later slain by a pair of sea serpents sent by the gods to punish him.

According to Roman era mythography, the figure represents the healer Asclepius, who learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. To prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius' care, Jupiter killed him with a bolt of lightning, but later placed his image in the heavens to honor his good works.

Credits: Ophiuchus
In several sources I found the idea that Ophiuchus once was part of the Zodiac as the 13th sign, however this idea was lost and so we only count 12 signs in the Zodiac.

What a beautiful stories this constellation has brought us and I hope it will inspire you to write/compose an all new haiku or tanka. I have given it a try and came up with this one:

Oracle of Delphi
sacred wisdom 
defended by Ophiuchus -
third eye closes

© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... not as strong as I had hoped, but I like this one. And now it's up to you my dear Haijin ... have fun!

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until September 23rd at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, Orion, later on.

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