Of Pan we sing, the best of leaders Pan,
That leads the Naiads and the Dryads forth.
Very few constellations have come down to us unchanged in form through all the ages. An exception to this is found in the figure of Capricornus, which is generally depicted with the head and body of a goat and the tail of a fish. Allen says that although we do not know when
Capri- cornus came into the zodiac, we may be confident that it was millenniums ago, perhaps in prehistoric days.
After Cancer it is the most inconspicuous constellation in the zodiac, and it seems strange on this account that these signs should have held such a place of importance in the minds of the ancients, and that they should have survived without change of figure the assaults of the ages that these stars have gazed upon. The Capricorn which appears on the Babylonian boundary stones, the most ancient of all records extant, is to all intents and purposes identical in form with the Capricorn of a modern almanac. According to Macrobius, the Chaldeans named the constellation "the Wild Goat," because that animal in feeding always ascends the hills, and is naturally a climbing animal. The sun in like manner when it arrives at
Capricornus begins to mount the sky, and hence the goat was adopted as a symbol of the apparent climbing motion of the sun, while the fish-tail was significant of the rains and floods of the winter season.
This is the explanation of this figure given by most authorities on constellational history to account for the amphibious character of Capricornus. It also explains the ancient oriental legend that Jupiter was suckled by the goat Amalthea, the meaning of which appears to be that the sun, emerging from the stars of Capricornus at the winter solstice, begins to grow in light and heat as he mounts toward the vernal equinox. He is thus figuratively said to be nourished by a goat. Maunder takes exception to this explanation, and holds that as the constellations were mapped out many centuries before the winter solstice fell in Capricornus, this view of the matter, though ingenious, is illogical and erroneous. Capricornus was called by the ancient Oriental nations "the Southern Gate of the Sun." In Grecian mythology,. it was considered "the Gate of the Gods," and through its stars the souls of men released at death were supposed to pass to the hereafter. Allen tells us that Aratos called this constellation "Aigokeros" the "Horned Goat," to distinguish it from the "Aix" of Auriga.
The Latinised form, " AEgoceros," was in frequent use with all classical authors who wrote on astronomy. "The Yoke" was another title borne by the constellation, a name suggested by the configuration of the three principal stars, Alpha, Beta and Delta. According to Brown, the Akkadai, the most ancient nation known to us, called the tenth month "the cave of the rising" (of the sun), and its nocturnal sign Capricornus, the solar goat, a reduplication of the solar ram, represented the sun rising from the great deep of the under world, as Shakespeare puts it: "from the blind cave of eternal night," and hence a demi-fish.
The Romans considered that Capricornus was under the special protection of Vesta, and they regarded the con- stellation with great veneration as having shed its influence on the birth of Augustus. We find the figure of a goat on coins of his period, and Smyth tells us that it was "the very pet of all the constellations with astrologers." The Arabians also considered Capricornus with great favour, and called it "Al- Jady," meaning "the goat." Burritt states that Capricornus is identical with Pan or Bacchus, who with some other deities were one day feasting near the bank of the river
Nile, when suddenly the dreadful giant Typhon came upon them, and compelled them all to assume a different shape in order to escape his fury. Pan took the lead and plunged into the river, and the part of his body which was under the water assumed the form of a fish, and that above water the form of a goat. To preserve the memory of the fable, Jupiter made Pan into a constellation, in his metamorphosed shape. The Greeks sometimes called the constellation simply "Pan." From this word we get our word "panic," which is the sort of fear that is born of the imagination, and Pan was said to terrorise people by the mere thought of his presence. In spite of Pan's evil nature of inciting panics, he was regarded as the god of rural scenery: Shepherds, and huntsmen, and also as the god of plenty. The emblem of plenty, the cornucopia or "horn of plenty," is connected with the mythological history of Capricornus. The legend relates that the father of the gods gave one of the goat's horns to the nymphs who had nursed Jupiter in his infancy as a reward for their kind services, and that this horn was endowed with a wonderful virtue. It provided whatever the holder desired, and hence was known as "the horn of plenty." The real sense of this fable,- divested of poetical embellishment, appears to be this: "There was in Crete, some say Lybia, a small territory shaped very much like a bullock's horn, and exceedingly fertile, which the king presented to his daughter Amalthea, whom the poets claim was the nurse of the infant Jupiter" (Burritt). The emblem of the cornucopia is a masonic emblem, and corroborates the fact that the major part of masonic symbolism has an astronomical significance. Capricornus is connected in Egyptian astronomy with "the god of waters" and is associated, as the star Sirius is, with the inundation of the Nile. It was also known as the goat-god "Mendes," in the Egyptian zodiac. Dr. Seiss claims that the Sea Goat represents a symbol of sacrifice and atonement. Csesius called it "Azazel," "the Scapegoat," and "Simon Zelotis," "the Apostle." Capricornus marked the 12d Hindu lunar station, "Abhikit," meaning "conquering," and Flammarion asserts that there is a Chinese record of 2449 B.C. which locates among the stars of Capricornus a conjunction of the five planets. There was an early prediction made, that when all the planets met in this sign the world would be destroyed by a great conflagration. Capricornus has also borne the strange title "the Double Ship," a name that bears out its maritime character appropriately enough, as we find the Sea Goat in that region of the heavens known to the ancients as "the Sea," and surrounded by other creatures of the deep. Allen states that the symbol of this constellation is thought to be tp, the initial letters of the Greek Tpiyos, meaning "Goat," but Lalande claims that it represents the twisted tail of the creature.
Capricornus figures on an ancient Egyptian mirror. The mirror was emblematic of life, and there may be a connection here between the em- blem of life, and the new life established by souls passing through these stars to the life eternal. The Peruvian year, says Hagar, probably began at the December solstice with the celebration of the most important of their festivals, known as "the festival of the beard." During this month the sun is passing through our sign of Capricornus. The corresponding Peruvian constellation is called "Nuccu," meaning "the Beard' The name refers directly to the widespread tiyth in which the sun, then at the height of his power in the southern hemisphere, is figured as Capra, "the tearded one." The beard seems to be the character emphasised in connection with the constellation, and participants in the ceremonial dances during the festival wore masks with long beards. The beard is one of , chief characteristics of the goat. Thus we find na- jods widely separated, and at a very remote time, with a common notion respecting an inconspicuous star group. Such a grotesque figure, recognised in common by different nations, is too great a coincidence to savour of individual creation. It has been said that the tribe of Napthali adopted this sign as their banner emblem, although the sign Virgo has also been allotted to them. The Latin poets designated it as "
Neptune's offspring," thus preserving its maritime significance. We also find it called by a Greek appellation signifying "Swordfish," while in the Aztec calendar it appeared with a figure like that of a napehaL The Tamil name for it signified "Antelope."
Astrologically considered Capricornus was the House of Saturn, the mansion of kings; black russet or a swarthy brown was the colour assigned to it, and Proctor tells us that this sign gives to its natives a dry constitution, and slender build, with a long thin visage. It governs the knees and hams, and reigns over
India, Macedonia, Thrace, Greece, Mexico, Saxony, Brandenburg, and . It is feminine and unfortunate, a conclusion totally at variance with the Romans' exalted idea of the constellation. Those born between the dates Dec. 21st and Jan. 20th are born under this sign. Such persons are proud, selfreliant, and practical, fastidious, dignified, and sincere in affection. Their tendency to idealise brings suffering. March and November are the lucky months, and Saturday the auspicious day. The flower is the snowdrop, and the precious stone, chalcedony. Oxford
Aratus thus describes Capricornus:
Dim in the midst, but four fair stars surround him,
One pair set close, the other wider parted.
This first pair, Alpha1 and Alpha 2 Capricorni, respectively called "Prima and Secunda Giedi," are situated in the head of the Sea Goat. Burritt calls them "Giedi" and "Dabih" respectively, the former being the most northern of the two, and a double star. The star name "Dabih" is an Arabic appellation meaning, curiously enough, "the Lucky One of the Slaughterers," referring to the sacrifice celebrated by the Arabs at the heliacal rising of Capricorn. The other wider parted pair of stars referred to by Aratos are Delta and Gamma Capricorni, named respectively " Deneb Algiedi," meaning "the Tail of the Goat," and "Nashira" -"the Fortunate One" or "Bringer of Good Tidings." Delta is an interesting star because it marks the approximate position of the discovery of the planet Neptune. The discovery of
Neptune is one of the most interesting episodes in the history of astronomical discovery, and a brief account of it is worth recording here. Early in the 19th century it was found that the planet Uranus was straying widely from its predicted positions. Two astronomers, Adams in England, and Le Verrier in France, working independently and without each other's knowledge, endeavoured to ascertain the causes of the perturbations, basing their calculations on the supposition/ that an undiscovered planet beyond Uranus was the disturbing factor. Adams began his work in 1843, Le Verrier in 1845. Adams communicated the results of his labour to the Astronomer Royal of England, but unfortunately the data were pigeonholed. Le Verrier, who sent his calculations to , the eminent German astronomer, was more fortunate. Galle Galle turned his telescope toward the position in the sky determined by Le Verrier, and discovered the Capricornus, the planet Neptune. This was on Sept. 23, 1846. Adams at once called attention to his data, which on being referred to were found to coincide with Le Verrier's result. Thus was England robbed of the triumph, but Adams's name has always been coupled with that of Le Verrier as the discoverer of the planet. It may be of interest that the veteran died but a short time ago, July 10, 1910, at the age of ninety-nine. The remaining stars in the constellation are faint, and of no special interest. Galle
Source: ”Star lore of all ages; a collection of myths, legends, and facts concerning the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere”, 1911 by Olcott, William Tyler
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