A Pale Band Across the Night Sky

Many legends that surround our galaxy as it appears as a pale band in the night sky. From milk split across the sky, to a divine river flowing through heaven, numerous attempts have been made to explain the mysterious phenomenon, and here I recount a few of them.

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Our galaxy, the Milky Way. A barred-spiral galaxy of estimated diameter between 100,000-180,000 ly, it contains approximately 100-400 billion stars, of which our very own Sun is but a below average one. 

It appears as a dim band of stars across the night sky, the band like structure appearing as such since we view it from within. Its name is a translation of its Latin name, Via Lactea, which itself is derived from the Greek word Galaxios, meaning milky. 

It represents one of the most mysterious visuals of the night sky, and numerous tales and stories have been built up to explain it over the years. It has been variously called a heavenly river, spilt milk and even a canoe by various communities of the world. 

Today we will see a few of the stories that have tried to explain the existence of the Milky Way in the sky. 

 1. Baby Heracles, creator of the Galaxy. 

Heracles is well known for being the poster-boy of Greek mythlogy. The sheer number of achievments accumulated by him would perhaps outnumber those of any other two dozen Greek heroes combined. And a large reason for this was the fact that he possessed divine strength, strength much greater than a human that allowed him to wrestle bare-handed with the Nemean Lion and hold up the sky in the stead of Atlas. 

But how he acquired this strength also makes for an interesting read. Heracles was born in the line of Perseus, to his granddaughter Alcemene whom Zeus visited in the guise of her husband and first cousin Amphitryon. 

Zeus was especially fond of the newborn babe, and had already tried to give him a bright future, only to be foiled by a jealous Hera. He had declared that the child born in the line of Perseus on the day Heracles was supposed to be born would be the King of Mycenea. But Hera ordered her daughter, Eileithyia the Goddess of Childbirth to block the delivery of Alcemene and instead bring forth the birth of the child of Sthenelus, Amphitryon and Alcemene’s uncle who had usurped the throne of Mycenea after his brother Electryon had beeen accidentally killed by Amphitryon. Eurystheus was born to Sthenelus and eventually became the ruler of Mycenea and was the one who issued forth the twelve labours that Heracles completed. (Goes on to show, never count your chicken before they hatch) 

In revenge, Zeus planned to empower Heracles by the hands (rather, the tits) of Hera. One day, when Hera was sleeping, Zeus took the infantile Heracles to Olympus, and allowed him to suckle on Hera’s breast. When Hera felt someone was drinking her milk, she was startled awake. Seeing a strange child suckling on her, she threw away the child from her bosom, who was rescued in time by Zeus.  But by then, Heracles had drunk enough of the divine milk that his strength was equal to the gods, as he was nursed, even though unwillingly, by the queen of gods. (Now that’s a set of ‘divine’  mammaries) 

As Hera threw away the baby Heracles, milk spurted from her breast and splashed across the heavens, forming the band across the sky which we see today as the Galaxias or the Milky Way. 

2. The Bridal Veil that stretches over Lightyears. 

The ancient Estonians had observed a very critical fact, that the migrating birds follwed the path laid out by the Milky Way in the sky. This fact was eventually confirmed by the scientists in recent times. Their story of the galaxy tells how this guiding path in the sky came to be. 

Ukko, the god of sky, thunder and lightning had two sons and two daughters. His daughter Lindu was charged with taking care of all the birds. She was the one who guided them when the set out for their migration and when they returned. She was a cheerful and lovely maiden, and had many admirers among the gods, who wanted to marry her. 

The first to make a move was the Pole Star. In a handsome Oaken wood carriage drawn by 6 Brown Horses, he came bearing 6 lavish gifts as he proposed Lindu. But Lindu rejected him, saying that he was always fixed in his own place and never moved anywhere. (Good guys always, always suffer) 

Then came a carriage of Silver came the Moon drawn by ten silver horses, with ten gifts to woo her. But again Lindu rejected him, and said that he always followed the same path across the sky, and he even waxed and waned at the same pace. Disappointed, the Moon also returned. 

Following the Moon in a carriage of gleaming Gold, drawn by twenty golden horses and carrying twenty gifts, came the Sun, but he too was rejected for being too predictable and regular.

Finally, in a Diamond coach drawn by a hundred rainbow horses came the Northen Lights carrying a thousand gifts. At the first glance at the beautiful yet unpredictable Northern Lights, Lindu fell in love and agreed to marry him. (This just goes on to show that all girls, even divine maidens, dig bad boys) 

As the Northern Light could not bear the sunrays for long, he asked Ukko for the far Northern Skies as his dowry, and on receiving them, promised to soon return to marry Lindu. (A swindle, if I ever saw one) 

Lindu set about preparing for her marriage. All the spirits of nature were engaged in preparing for the upcoming marriage. The birds chose the choicest of flowers to adorn Lindu, while the earth gave up the most beautiful gems to create jewellery. The Mountains gifted her a bridal-veil made from a waterfall as she waited for Northern Lights to come back and marry her. 

But her wait was long, for months passed but there was no sign of the Northern Lights. Lindu waited listlessly, and did not even pay attention to her duties, and many birds lost their way when they were migrating. As time passed, she realized that the capricious Northern Light was not coming back, and tears fell from her eye as she mourned her broken heart.

Ukko, saddened to see his daughter in grief, ordered the four winds so that they would lift her from earth and bring her back to his palace in sky. As she floated into the sky, her bridal veil stretched out behind her, forming the Milky Way which the shows the birds which way to go during migration, and thus Lindu still continues fulfilling her duties till this day. 

In Estonia, the Milky Way is known as Linnunrata, or The Birds Way, in memory of the beautiful goddess Lindu, who forgot that “All that glitters is not gold”. 

3. Milky Way: Galaxy, Heavenly River, Lover’s Bane. 

Chinese myths are rich in deities, adopted and adapted as they are from Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. The highest deities of Heaven are Sanqing, The Three Pure Ones, the creators and supreme Trinity of Taoist pantheon. But the day to day workings of the cosmos are overseen by Yuhuang Dadi, the Illustrious Jade Emperor of Heaven who presides over the Celestial Court and rules the three realms with infinite wisdom. 

He is married to Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, the overlady of Heaven and the Goddess of Life, Happiness and Immortality. She owns magic pills that grant eternal life and has a Celestial Peach Garden, which grantt youth to whoever eats them. 

But even the most powerful of goddesses was not able to break free of the stereotype of the evil mother-in-law, and created the whole of Milky Way in a bid to safeguard her daughter from her ‘unworthy’ mortal husband. 

The seventh daughter of the Divine Royal couple was Zhi Nu, the Weaver Goddess, in charge of all crafts and responsible for weaving the beautiful clouds that adorn the dome of heaven. As the gods are wont to do, she and her sisiters often descended to the mortal world to spend some time. On one such occasion, Zhi Nu heard a beautiful melody floating in the air, and stumbled upon a cowherd boy playing a flute as he watched over the grazing cattle.

The name of the cowherd was Niu Lang. He was born the youngest son of his father, and when his father died, his elder brothers had given him only an old bull and a herd of cattle as his share, keeping the rest for themselves. Zhi Nu was so enchanted by the sounds of his flute that every day she used to come down to listen him play. As time passed, they both fell in love with each other, secretly married, and even had two children. (Its such a surprise!!!) 

Zhi Nu slowly started ignoring her heavenly duties to spend time with her mortal family. Xiwangmu noticed this when less and less clouds were seen in the sky, and saw that her daughter often descneded to the mortal world. Curious, she sent a messenger to secretly tail her, and the messenger promptly reported the truth to the Queen. Angered that a mere cowherd had the audacity to marry her daughter, she ordered that Zhi Nu should be brought back to the skies, and never allowed to return to her new family. 

As a despairing Niu Lang watched his wife being taken away from him, he was surprised when the old bull he had received as his inheritance started to speak. It told him that Zhi Nu had secretly bestowed some magic into it, and it can carry him to her abode in the sky. 

So Niu Lang took his two children with him and rode his bull to chase after Zhi Nu. But they were not meant to meet, for Xiwangmu noticed him, and taking her hairpin, slashed it across the sky, creating the Heavenly Silver River between the two. Try as they might, the lovers were unable to cross the river and waited at opposite banks. Zhi Nu was the star Vega of the Constellation of Lyre, while Niu Lang was the star Altair of constellation of Aquilae. Their two children were the stars Beta-Aquilae and Gamma-Aquilae who remained with their father on the other side of the silvery river. 

The stars on the two sides of Altair represent their children

So great was their sorrow, so deep their love, that the magpies(considered auspicious birds in China) sympathised with them, and built a bridge across that river for a day every year, when the two would be able to cross over and meet each other. 

The Jade Emperor was also moved and turned Niu Lang into an immortal, and appointed him as the Heavenly Official in Charge of Cowsheds,officially giving approval to the marriage. 

The Seventh Day of the Seventh Month, the day on which the Magpies form the bridge, is celebrated as the Qixi Festival in China, and is contemporarily known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day. In Japan,  the festival is celebrated as Tanabata. 

Remember this folks, beware of Mothers-in-law, for they are cruel, cruel creatures. 

4. The Descent of the Heavenly River

The River Ganges is the lifeline of millions of people who live along its 2500 kilometer long course across the Indo-Gangetic Plains, one of the most densely populated areas of the world. It is held sacrosanct by Hindus, to the extent that even a single dip is considered enough to give you salvation. Its purifying effect is well-documented, with scientific studies showing that Ganges water has a strong and unique germicidal property and an unusually high oxygen content. 

The Ganges is considered a Heavenly river that descended to Earth to wash away the sins of mortal. Hindu’s explain Milky Way as the path which Ganga, the deific personification of the river, took as she descended to the mortal world. 

King Sagara was a mighty king of the Suryavansh, one of the two semi-divine royal families of Hindu Mythology. He had two wives, and from one, he had a son Anshuman, his heir, while his other wife had given birth to 60,000 sons.

Sagara conducted the Ashwamedha Yajna, the ritualistic sacrifice where a horse is left to roam all over the world and all those countries over which the Horses passes unchallenged accept the suzerainty of the monarch conducting the sacrifice. 

Indra, the king of Heaven, in his paranoia feared the growing might of Sagara and in a bid to foil his Yajna, he stole the Jorse and hid him near the hermitage of Sage Kapila, who had been deep in meditation for thousands of years. 

The 60,000 sons of Sagara searched all over the earth for the Horse, and finally find it near the Sage. Thinking that the Sage was the one who had stolen the horse and was now pretending to be in meditation, they heckled him, causing Kapila’s meditation to be disrupted. Angered, Kapila Muni opens his eyes and the energy of penance accumulated in them burns all of the 60,000 princes to ashes. (Laser powered eyes, anyone?) 

As their last rites had not been carried out as per the scriptures, the princes turned into dissatisfied ghosts who were tied to the mortal plane even after death. Anshuman, seeing the deplorable condition of his half-brothers, pleads before Kapila Muni for mercy. Kapila, now a lot calmer, says that if the Celestial river Ganga could wash their ashes, then the prinves would be able to attain salvation. 

Ganga was born when Lord Vishnu, one of the three Supreme deities of Hinduism, in his incarnation as Vamana, the Dwarf,  covered the whole universe in two steps and his nail pierced a hole on the edges of the universe and caused the primordial waters sorrounding the creation to rush inside in a bid drown everything. But Vishnu managed to contain the torrential flow and trapped it beneath the nail of his pinky toe, giving Ganga the name Vishnupadi, one who resides in the feet of Vishnu. 

Later on, Bramha, one of other gods of the Supreme Trinity, obtained the primordial waters which were stored in his Kamandalu, the ceremonial vessel the Brahmins and ascetics carried with them. 

Anshuman’s great-grandson, Bhagiratha was determined to give salavation to his ancestors, so after strict penance over hundreds of years, he appeased Bramha, who ordered Ganga to flow down to the mortal world. 

Ganga, displeased on being asked to descend to mortal world by leaving the Celestial world, rushed out of Bramha’s Kamandalu with such a torrential flow that it threatened to destroy the entire mortal plane. Bhagiratha, alarmed by this, prayed to Bramha who asked him to go to Lord Shiva, the last part of the Trinity,  for help. Shiva agrees to it and opens up his locks of hair for Ganga to descend into. 

Arrogant in the strength of her flow, Ganga arcs across the sky in a pale band, planning to wash away Lord Shiva as well. But as soon as she falls on top of Shiva’s head, it is as if she fell down into an inescapable cage, for even her endless flow was unable to escape from them. Humbled, she begs Shiva for forgiveness, and the Lord releases her in form of a gentle stream from his head, and hence bears the name Gangadhar, the one who bears Ganga. (Those are some seriously cool dreadlocks) 

As Ganga flowed down from Shiva’s locks, she mistakenly destroyed the ashram of Sage Janhu, who, in his anger, drank up the flow of the river. Bhagirath, distressed by the interruptions coming up one after another, pleads to the Rishi to release Ganga into the world back again, and the sage allows Ganga to flow back out of his ear, giving the alternate name of the river, Janhavi, the one born of Janhu. (A real troublemaker of a river, if there was ever one)

Bhagirath finally, finally leads Ganga to the ashram of Kapila Muni where Ganga washes away the ashes of his ancestors and gives them salvation. She finally flows into the sea where she enters into the netherworld and thus completes her journey into all three worlds. 

As Ganga flows through the sky, her form can been seen as the pale band of light known as Akash Ganga, or the Heavenly Ganga. 

So we learn that, besides Hindu Mythology being in no way inferior to Marvel Universe in terms of special powers, we should never be arrogant, but always remain humble. 

5. The Canoe in the Sky

The Maori of the Newzealand had a very interesting myth of how the stars and the Milky Way came to be. 

One day, the great Maori warrior Tama-Rereti felt very hungry when he woke up in his whare(hut). But there was little food to be had in his home. So he decided to go out fishing and get something for him and his family. 

He put out his Waka, his canoe, out into the lake Taupo. It was a breezy morning in spring, and Tama-Rereti had a great haul. As he leisurely caught fish in the lake, his basket was soon filled up and he was ready to go back home for lunch. 

But the wind had died down, and he was becalmed. Rather than struggle to row back to his home at the southern shore of the lake, he decided to sleep for sometime in his canoe, till the wind picked up again. 

With the soothing sound of the wakes and gentle rocking of the boat, he was soon fast asleep. In the meanwhile, a soft breeze had been born which slowly moved his canoe northwards. 

When Tama-Rereti finally woke up late in the afternoon, he found he was near the far-bank of the lake and would be unable to make it back to his house before dusk. 

In those days, thebworld used to becoke completely dark after dusk, for there were no moon nor stars in the sky. No animals nor humans could see at night, and only the Taniwha, dwellers of deep pits and caves, roamed during the night, capturing and eating whoever was foolish enough to roam at night. 

Now Tama-Rereti was a great warrior and not afraid of the Taniwha, but he was wise and knew not to take a decision with a rumbling stomach, for he had not eaten anything since morning.

He drew his canoe near beach and tied it up, and set about to build a fire and roast his fish. Soon enough dusk came and went, it became dark. Tama-Rereti noticed that the pebbles in his fire were glowing brightly and casting a faint light of their own. 

Looking at the black, black sky, Tama-Rereti had a great idea, and using some leaves, he collected the shining pebbles and placed them in his canoe. Sailing off, he soon reached the horizon, from where the great ocean of the sky started flowing. Sailing into the ocean, he started scattering the glowing pebbles everywhere. All through the night, he scattered the pebbles, till the whole of the sky was filled with them. As the first light of the dawn approached, he had reached near his village, and finally reaching his hut, went into a deep sleep. 

In his sleep, Tama-Rereti met Ranginui, the Lord of the Sky. At first, he was afraid the Ranginui was angry at him for littering the sky with so many pebbles, but Ranginui was actually very happy with the new look of the sky and the fact that now the men and animals could see even in the night. 

As a reward, Ranginui placed the canoe of Tama-Rereti in the sky, which appears in the sky as a pale band from below. The Southern cross anchors it in the ocean of the sky and the pointers act as the rope connecting them. 

Just goes on to show us that Enterpreneurship was the ‘in’ thing even back in the day.
Thats was it for this edition, where we went through quite a few rendition of how our home galaxy was made, and perhaps more than a few of them were a bit wacky, but well, imagination is only bounded by itself. Whenever Man has encountered something new, he has tried his best to explain it, and the results, more often than not, are what have made up our mythologies. 

In the next post, I will tackle the most popular blend of astronomy and myth, the Zodiacs. 

Till then,

Signing off

StorytellerSabya 

The Hero from Greece with a Happy Ending

The Perseid meteor shower is an ongoing astronomical phenomenon, having peaked recently in the pre-dawn hours of August 13. Numerous astronomy enthusiast are sure to have been up late in the night to catch a glimpse of this magnificent phenomenon. 

This phenomenon occurs when Earth passes through the debris field left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which has a period of 133 years before reappearance. But the unique name of the meteor shower holds a special mythological significance. The region of the sky where the meteors appear holds the constellation of Perseus,  and hence the meteors are named as Perseids, name of the dynasty his children had created. 

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Perseus was one of the oldest of the Greek heroes, a demigod son of Zeus and of the same generation as his half brother Dionysius, who later on ascended as an Immortal god and displaced Hestia from the Olympian Council.

The legend of Perseus encompasses a total of 6 out of 88 constellations and I will present here who they are, as well as the why. The unique thing in this story is the fact that Perseus is one of the very few heroes of the extended tragedy that is Greek Mythology that lived a relatively peaceful life, making him unique amongst the vast number of heroes that Greeks had. 
The Oldest of Heroes. 

King Acrisius of Argos was blessed with a single daughter,  Danae, whose beauty was said to rival that of the goddesses. But he had no son to pass his throne to. Aggrieved, he ran to the oldest Consultancy service, the Oracle of Delphi. But the Oracle gave him a dark prophecy,  that he would bear nosons, and the son of his daughter would cause his death. 

Alarmed, Acrisius acted to fight against the Prophecy. He imprisoned Danae in a prison with four walls of bronze that was open to the sky. But the Moirai were craftier still. Danae caught the eye of the amorous King of Olympus, who appeared as a golden shower and impregnated Danae. (Zeus is seriously a better shapeshifter than any other god in any other mythology.) 

When the child was born, Acrisius was furious, but when the priests revealed the newborn baby, Perseus Eurymedon, was a son of Zeus, he was afraid of harming him,  and instead cast the mother and child in the sea locked in a wooden casket. 

The casket floated till it reached the island of Sephiros where King Polydectes ruled. His brother Dictys lived as a fisherman and he was the one who retrieved the casket, and after listening to Danae’s story gave her and her child asylum. 

Perseus was raised by Dictys till he was a young man. In the meantime, King Polydectes was enamored by Danae,  but was stopped in his advances by Perseus. So he hatched a plan to get him out of his way. 

Polydectes assembled a great feast on his birthday and invited everyone on Sephiros. All the guests gave him lavish gifts, but Persus, who was a poor fisherman, had no gifts to give. Embarassed by Polydectes’ courtiers, the brash and hot-blooded young man declared that he would give the King any gift that he would care to name, and Polydectes, asked him for the head of Medusa of the Gorgons. 

Now a little introduction is necessary here. The Gorgons were originally a trio of beautiful maidens, Euryale, Stheno and Medusa, daughters of sea deities Phorcys and Ceto. The youngest Medusa had beautifyl golden hair, which caught the fancy of god of seas Poseidon who courted her, and both of them desecrated the temple of Athena in their fervour. (Really guys, entering someone else’s house to fornicate?) 

Athena, angered cursed all the three sisters to turn into hideous monsters. Medusa was given the extra treatment that her gaze would turn anyone who looks into them petrified. Since her beautiful hair had been what enticed Poseidon, all three sisters had their hair turned into venomous snakes. She was also turned from an immortal to a mortal monster.  This also excaberated Athena’s rivalry with Poseidon which began when the Athenians chose Athena as their patron deity over Poseidon. (Olympians were really, really cruel.)

Perseus, bound by his words, set out on his quest, but soon found that the world was a very big place, and sadly, monsters were not in the habit of leaving behind instructions to their lairs. 

But help came in form Hermes and Athena who appeared before Perseus and told him that they were all half-siblings, children of Zeus. Hermes lent him his flying sandals, the Talaria, while Athena gave him a divine shield that was polished so well that it could act as a mirror. They then directed him you to go to the Hesperides, the daughters of Atlas and Nymphs of Sunset, from whom he got ther rest of the goodies his father had collected for him. It included the Adamantine sickle-sword Harpe, the Helm of Invisibility that was the weapon of Hades and an enchanted bag, Kibisis. 
Thereafter, he was told that he needs to find the Graeae, the sisters to Gorgons, for only they could tell him the location of the Gorgons. The Graeae were three old women who shared a single eye and single tooth between the three of them. 

Expectedly, they were unwilling to just betray the location of their own sisters. The three crones used to exchange the eye and tooth between them, and just as they had taken it out to exchange, Perseus snatched it and blackmailed them into revealing the location of the Gorgons. 

Now armed and informed, Perseus set out to kill Medusa. When he reached the lair of the monsters, the three were taking a nap. Sneaking in, Perseus used the shield as a mirror to look upon Medusa’s head and cut it off. But barely had he managed it that the hissing of Medusa’s hair-like snakes woke up both her sisters. Putting the head in the Kibisis, he fled by donning his Helm which turned him invisible. The elder Gorgons, with their chicken-like wings, scaly skin, hideous face with boar-like tusk rose to gave chase, but wearing the divine sandal Talaria, Persues sucessfully evaded the two monsters. 

Now we come upon the second character to be enshrined in the stars. From the headless trunk of Medusa, sprung forth two beings, the golden giant Chrysoar and the white winged horse, Pegasus. Both were children that Medusa had conceived through Poseidon and were caged in Medusa’s body when she was turned into a monster. Of the two, Chrysoar later became the King of Iberia and father to the three headed Geryon whom Hercules slew, while Pegasus was later tamed by Bellorphon, who with Pegasus’ help slew the Chimera. The divine steed was famed all over Greece and many heroes had tried their hand at taming it later in the day. It too was raised to the stars as a constellation. 

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From there on, Perseus set out to return to Sephiros. On way, he happened upon the coast of Aeithopia. There he found a divinely beautiful maiden chained to an altar on the beach on the nude. Being a healthy young man, Perseus naturally went up to her,  and asked who she was and why she was in such a situation. 

Here we are introduced the rest of the crew that form the Perseus brigade in the heavenly dome. The maiden said that her name was Andromeda and she was the princess of Aeithopia, daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Her mother, being a vain woman, had boasted that her daughter was more beautiful that the Nereids, the sea nymphs who were the daughters of Nereus and attendants to Poseidon, whose numbers included Thetis, the most well-connected lady of the Olympian Court and mother to Achilles. 

Poseidon, infuriated by the boast of a mortal, flooded Aeithopia and released the gigantic sea monster Cetus on the country. He threatened that unless Andromeda was sent as a sacrifice to Cetus, the moster would forever wreck havoc along the coasts of the kingdom. Helpless, the King and Queen had no other choice than obeying the whims of the son of Cronus. 

Perseus, moved by the beauty of Andromeda, had already fallen in love with her and asked that if he slew the Cetus and saved her, would she agree to being his wife,  to which Andromeda obviously agreed. When Cetus arrived, Perseus pulled out the Head of Medusa from the Kibisis, on seeing which, the monster was petrified to stone. 

Having saves their daughter from certain death, both Cepheus and Cassiopeia had no problems acknowledging Perhaps as their son-in-law. Buy Cepheus’ brother Phineas was earlier betrothed to Andromeda,  and now that Cetus had been slain, he was unwilling to let the beautiful Andromeda go. So Perseus again pulled out the head of Medusa and turned him and his men to stone and married Andromeda. 

Andromeda, as Perseus’ wife had been placed as his eternal companion in the stars. Cassiopeia was also placed in the stars by Poseidon in the pose of sitting in a chair. But due to her close placingbto the Celestial pole, half of the time it appears that she is positioned upside-down,  which is considered Poseidon’s punishment to her. Considering almost the whole family was placed in the stars, Cepheus was too placed in the stars. Finally, the sea monster Cetus too was accorded a place in the heavens as a testament to the prowess of the son of Zeus. 

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Perseus, accompanied by Andromeda, soon reached Sephiros. There he found that Polydectes had tried to court her mother and when Danae had refused, he had forcibly abducted her to be his handmaiden. Angered, Perseus went to Polydectes’ Court, where Polydectes, though surprised to see him, demanded to see the promised gift. In his anger, Perseus took out the head in the middle if the court and turned all of Polydectes friends and supporters into stone. Afterwards he installed Dictys as the King and his mother as the queen.

There after, Perseus returned each of the divine gifts he had received, and went on to present Athena with the head of Medusa as a tribute. Athena set it upon Zeus’ shield which he had lent to her. The shield was made from the hide of the divine goat Amaltheia who had nursed Zeus when he was a baby and hid him from Cronus. With the addition of the Gorgon head, the famous shield Aegis was born. 

He then set out to visit Argos, but there he found that his grandfather, Acrisius, was ousted from Argos by his twin brother Proteus, King of Tirnys. He slew Proteus and restored his grandfather to the throne, who was remorseful for his actions in the past. They installed Megapenthes, son of Proteus, as King of Tirnys and Acrisius installed Perseus as the Crown Prince. 

Soon after, Dionysius, still a mortal but widely revered, wanted to spread the his cult and the Bacchic Rites(basically, drunken orgies) to all parts of Greece, but Acrisius refused to accept his divinity and refused to allow the Maenads (crazy fangirls of his, literally) to carry out their work in his kingdom. Dionysius, in anger cursed the women into madness as they killed their own children in insanity,and war broke out between Argos and the Maenads and Satyrs under Dionysius. 

Perseus fought against his half brother and even killed his son as well as his wife Ariadne, the self-same Princess of Crete who was the daughter of Minos and had helped Theseus to kill her half brother, only to be left behind on an island on the orders of Dionysius who wanted to take her as his consort. At this time, Hermes intervened to act as mediator and peacefully solved the conflict as Acrisius acknowledged the divinity of Dionysius. 

But fate would not be denied, and especially not Prophecies of the revered Oracles. The King of Larissa, Teutamedes invited Acrisius to be the guest at a game he was holding to honour the gods, and Perseus too set out to participate. When throwing the discus at an event, the stone disc slipped from his hand and hit Acrisius in the head, leading to his death and caused the prophecy to be fulfilled. 

Perseus was now the king, but he was also guilty of kin-slaying, accidental though it was, and the least punishment was exile. As the king could not be exiled just so, the Kings of Argolis came upon an unique solution. Perseus and his cousin Megapenthes exchanged their kingdoms, where of, Perseus was now the King of Tirnys and Megapenthes of Argos. 

Perseus went on to establish a new city a short distance from Tirnys, a city named Mycenea, the very same city from whose throne Eurystheus, Perseus’ grandson, gave out the Twelve labors to Heracles, Perseus’ great-grandson, and where from Agammemnon led forth the thousand strong navy of the Argives to lay waste to the fair city of Troy. 

Perseus lived to a ripe old age and enjoyed a peaceful reign. He had many children from Andromeda. The eldest, Perses, had been left behind at Aeithopia as the heir to Cepheus, and his descendants were later on known as the Persians, of Persia in Asia. 

Electryon ruled the city of Mycenea while Alcaeus ruled Tirnys under his brother. Sthenelaus was advisor to his brother Electryon and snatched his throne when Electryon was accidentally killed by Amphitryon, son of Alcaeus, after the Taphians and Teleboans had slain all the legitimate sons of Electryon. Cynurus founded the city of Cynura in Laconia while Mestor, through his daughter Hippothoe, was grandfather to Taphias who established the kingdom of Taphos in the islands of same name, who later on came to conflict with Mycenea and were destroyed by Amphitryon. Heleus accompanied his nephew Amphitryon into war with Taphians when they invaded and killed the sons of Electryon, who were also brothers-in-law to Amphitryon and established the city of Helos and was made co-ruler of Taphos along with Cephalus. Of his two daughters, Gorgophone married twice,  and from her first marriage, she was the mother to Tyndareus, the king of Sparta and father to Helen and Clytemenstra, Castor and Polydeuces. Autochthe was married to Aegeus, father to Theseus, and was divorced by him when she bore him only daughters but no son. 

Perseids are one of the most extensive families of Greece of Antiquity. Perseus’ famous descendants include, but are not limited to, Heracles, Iphicles, Castor, Polydeuces, Helen, Clytemenstra, wife of Agamemnon,  Penelope, wife of Odysseus and many more, turning them into the most influential family of Greek myths. 

Ok folks. That’s it for today. I will see you again soon with a new episode of legends. Till then. 

Signing Off

Your Storyteller. 

To solve a Paradox, Zeus Style… 

In the night sky stretching from horizon to horizon, few are the heavenly bodies brighter than Sirius, the combined binary star system of Main Sequence star Sirius A and its fainter, white dwarf companion Sirius B, which to the naked eye appear as a single star. 
Sirius’ brilliance was widely noted across history, and numerous natural phenomenon that coincided with its appearance in the Northern Hemisphere have led to many myths building up around it. 
The first appearance of the star in the pre-dawn sky marked the annual flooding of Nile and led to the Ancient Egyptians honouring it as the Goddess Sopdet; while further north, the Greeks suffered under the sweltering heat of the July Sun as they cursed Sirius, accusing that it added its strength to that of the Sun, resulting in the hottest days of Summer. 
Those days were termed as the “Dog Days”  as the Sirius itself was known as the Dog Star, and our story revolves around the ‘why’. 
Sirius is part of the Constellation Canis Majoris (the Greater Dog), which is one of the traditional 48 Ptolemaic constellation that has been accepted as a part of 88 modern constellations. Canis Majoris forms a pair with Canis Minoris (the Lesser Dog)  as they closely follow Orion the Hunter through the night sky. 
Many stories in Ancient Greece have been attributed to these two Celestial Canines, most concluding that they were hunting companions of Orion himself. But an equally interesting story also accompanies them, that involves an unsolvable paradox and the divine solution that Zeus worked out for it. 
The tale of Two Canines

This story begins long, long ago, as most myths go. In the Peloponnese peninsula, along the eastern coast, laid the land of Argolis. It was ruled by the Perseids, the sons of the demigod Perseus, the Gorgon-Slayer and Princess Andromeda. Our tale starts in the city of Tirnys, ruled by the wise Prince Alcaeus, who ruled beneath his brother Electryon, King of Mycenea and leader of Argolis. He had given his daughter Anaxo in marriage to her uncle Electryon and in turn Electryon had betrothed their daughter to Alcaeus’ son Amphitryon. (Ancient Greeks were really, really keen on incest.) 
But before the marriage could be carried out, the King of Taphos, Pterelaus, a descendant of Perseus through Mestor, brother to Electryon and Alcaeus, sent his six sons along with his pirate fleet of Taphians and Teleboans, to demand ashare in the ruling of Mycenea due to his descent from Perseus. (Someone was really greedy.) 
Predictably, Electryon refused (duh!), and the sons of Pterelaus started to herd his cattle into their ships to show their displeasure. The sons of Electryon rode to battle, and at the end, Electryon had but one son left, an illegitimate son Licymnius who survived because he was too young to go to battle. Of the Taphians,  Everes too was the only son of Pterelaus who survived as he retreated with the stolen cattle which he sold to Polyxenus, King of Elis, another kingdom in Peloponnese. 
Amphitryon, in a bid to cheer his grieving uncle and future father-in-law, bartered with Polyxenus and retrieved the cattle of Electryon. And as he was unloading them unto the coast of Mycenea, disaster struk again. 
Amphitryon had thrown his club to calm an unruly bull,  when the club rebounded from its horns and hit Electryon’s head instead, killing him instantly (other than Perseus,  few of his house were ever lucky). His brother Sthenelaus seized this chance to declare Licymnius a bastard and himself the king of Mycenea and overlord of Argolis. To eliminate the last threat, he accused Amphitryon of Electryon’s murder and exiled him from Argolis.

 
Exiled and grieving, Amphitryon was given yet another jolt when his fiance Alcemene, daughter of Electryon, who had decided to accompany him on the exile as she believed him to be innocent, refused to consummate their marriage till he defeated the Taphians and Teleboans in revenge of the death of her brothers. (Perhaps the worst way to c***block a bloke.) 
Amphitryon finally decided to go to Thebes, where he planned to ask the Theban king Creon to absolve him of the sin of kin-slaying and also help him take revenge against the King Pterelaus. 
But when he reached Thebes, he found that the city was mired in its own problems. The god Dionysius, angered at some supposed infraction of the Thebans, had tasked the Teumessian Fox, the monstrous child of Echidna and Typhon, blessed with the ability to evade every hunter and to never be caught, to prey on the children of Thebes. (No one knows why, but then, the Olympians rarely needed reasons for their actions.)
Creon told Amphitryon that he would agree to both of his requests, but in return Amphitryon had to first save Thebes from the menace of the Fox. Amphitryon futilely tried to catch the Fox by himself for sometime, before he finally sought some professional help. 
In entirely another part of Greece, sometime before our story occurs, the Phoenician Princess Europa had captured the eyes of Zeus, who had kidnapped her in form of a white bull, and after sating his lust, left her pregnant in the Islands of Crete. Zeus left behind for her three gifts, the bronze automaton Talos, a javelin that was enchanted to always hit its mark and finally,  the dog Laelaps,  who was made to be the perfect hunter, one who always caught its prey. Europa bore three sons Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. Minos later on became the King of Crete and married the witch Pasiphae, sister to immortal witch Circe. 

On yet another part of Greece, the city of Phocis was ruled by king Dione,  son of Aeolus, the Lord of Winds. His son Cephalus was married to Procris, a prominent Athenian maiden. But their matrimony was fraught with struggles, as soon after their marriage, Cephalus was kidnapped by Eos, the goddess of Dawn who was rather taken with him. But when Cephalus kept pining after his wife,  she finally returned him to her,  but planted a seed of doubt in his mind of his wife’s fidelity. Cephalus disguised himself and sucessfully seduced his own wife.  When Procris finally tealized this,  she ran away in shame. 
Back in Crete,  Pasiphae had cursed Minos that he would ejaculate poisonous creatures like snakes and scorpions due to some tiff. (Guys, witch hunts were carried out for a reason). Coincidentally, Procris arrived in Crete at that time, and managed to cure Minos, earning his thanks which he expressed handsomely by gifting her both the magical javelin and Laelaps which his mother had passsed down to him. Procris returned to Cephalus bearing these gifts,  and he being an avid hunter,  readily forgave her. (A javelin and a dog were enough to forgive infidelity?) 
It was from him that Amphitryon sought help,  and after Amphitryon promised to give him a part of the Taphian lands, Cephalus lent him Laelaps in his endeavour the catch the Teumessian Fox. 
The hound was brought to Thebes, and let loose when the Fox next attacked. But here rose a pardox. The Teumessian Fox could never be caught by a hunter and Laelaps would always catch its prey. Zeus, faced with this problem, solved it in a single smooth action, turning both the beasts into stone. (Befitting the tales of the short fuse on his legendary temper.) 
Later on, he placed them in the sky to commemorate them, and they can still seen today, Laelaps in form of Canis Majoris and the Teumessian Fox in form of Canis Minoris. 

(Now the story should have ended here, as we learn of how the Greeks viewed the two constellations came to be. But now,  where’s the fun in that?) 
Though Cephalus lost Laelaps permanently, Thebes was rid of the Teumessian Fox,  and Creon,  righteous king that he was, lent the Amphitryon and his uncle Heleus the armies of Thebe to fight against Pterelaus. 
But that war went poorly, as Pterelaus was blessed with immortality as long as his long golden hair remained intact. But love played truant as his daughter Comaetho fell in love with Amphitryon and cut off her own father’s hair, rendering him mortal. (Greeks loved their betrayals too.)
But after defeating Pterelaus, Amphitryon destroyed any fantasy of Comaetho by beheading her as he left Taphos under the rule of Cephalus and Heleus, returning to Thebe and his wife Alcemene. But the night before he reached Thebes, Zeus again had an itch to scratch, and took the form of Amphitryon and accompanied Alcemene as he detailed the tales of Amphitryon’s victory to her. The next day, when Amphitryon finally returned, he finally consummated his marriage to his wife. In a testament to the fertility of Alcemene, she conceived both times, of whom Iphicles was born of Amphitryon,  while from Zeus’ seed was born none other than Heracles. 
Yes dear readers, our today’s relatively unknown protagonist Amphitryon was none other than the step-father of Heracles, the greatest of the Greek Heroes. 

Ok folks,  goodbye for now. In the next edition, we will talk of Perseus,  and the all the heavenly constructs his adventures had spawned. 

Signing Off, 

Your Storyteller. 

The First One

“Twinkle, twinkle little star, 
How I wonder what you are… ”
Over thousands of years of civilization, this question has been on the mind of every child who has seen the starry sky in the night. While trying to explain their existence, myriads of stories have been told, describing a thousand and one tales of what the stars are and how they came to be. 

Every civilization had its own intrepretation of the stars, a unique explanation of their presence. These stories have been preserved in form of myths and folktales all over the world, and I will endeavour to bring before you these very stories. 

From times ancient to the medieval world, I will bring forth tales spanning the length and breadth of time. And believe me when I say, more stories have been written on them, than the number of stars you can see in the night sky. 

Signing off for now, 

Your Storyteller