And starry Gemini hang like growing crowns,
Over Orion's grave low down in the west.
The ancient Chaldeans, and eastern nations generally, knew nothing of the zodiacal sign we call Gemini, or the Twins, although these stars have always been regarded as twins from remote antiquity. Instead of twin brothers, however, the ancients imagined these stars represented two Kids. There was a significance in this title quite apart from its relation to the herds that they were daily concerned with. We see in this region of the sky three ancient and important constellations named after domestic animals that figured prominently in the pastoral life of early times, the Ram, the Bull, and the Kids. Pluche tells us that "in the reproduction of species among the herds familiar to primitive man, the first produced in the vernal season are the lambs, then come the calves, and later the kids, so that it was natural that the ancients who devised the constellations should characterize in this order the three constellations through which the sun passed in the vernal season."
Brown considers that the constellations were designed to perpetuate the stories in which the ancients dramatized their conception of solar and lunar relations. He holds that Gemini is a stellar representation of the great Twin Brethren of the sky, the sun and the moon, who join in building a mysterious city. Although hostile to each other, they work together, and are only seen together by day.
In that interesting book by Maunder, entitled The Astronomy of the Bible, we are told that on the Babylonian monuments and boundary stones, the most ancient records extant, there appears a set of symbols repeated over and over again, and always given a position of prominence. It is the so-called "Triad of Stars," a crescent lying on its back and two stars near it. The significance of this symbol is now clear. Four thousand years before the Christian era, the two stars Castor and Pollux, Alpha and Beta Geminorum respectively, served as indicators of the first new moon of the year, just as the star Capella did two thousand years later. The "Triad of Stars" then is simply a picture of what men saw year after year in the sunset sky, at the beginning of the first month 6000 years ago. It is the earliest record of an astronomical event that has come down to us. Plunket says that the early astronomers who mapped out the zodiac, noticing that the equinoctial colure in 6000 B.C. passed the two bright stars Castor and Pollux, chose to represent them as marking the heads of twin figures, which they determined should symbolize the equal day and night of the season over which they presided. Thousands of years after these two stars had ceased to mark the equinox, they were still associated by the Greeks with the twin heroes Castor and Pollux, brothers, who according to the legend were " possessed of an immortality of existence so divided among them that as one dies the other revives."
The learned Dr. Barrett has pointed out that this furnishes a complete description of day and night, a simile that is especially interesting if we attribute the first symbolising of day and night by these stars to the work of astronomers at a date when the days and nights these stars symbolised were exactly of equal length, and when therefore the equally bright stars and equal alternations of light and darkness might both be fitly symbolised as twins.
The Latin title " Gemini " by which we know the constellation dates only from classical times. Burritt gives the following mythological history of the constellation: " Castor and Pollux were twin brothers, sons of Jupiter, by Leda, the wife of Tyndarus, Bang of Sparta. They were educated at Pallena, and afterwards embarked with Jason in the celebrated contest for the golden fleece at
Colchis, on which occasion they behaved with unparalleled courage. Pollux distinguished himself by his achievements in arms and personal prowess, and was a famous pugilist. Castor was superior in equestrian exercises, and the management of horses. The Twins are represented in the temples of , on white horses, armed with spears, riding side by side." Among the ancients, and particularly among the Romans, there prevailed a superstition that Castor and Pollux often appeared at the head of their armies, and led on their troops to battle and victory. Greece
The gods who live for ever
Have fought for
These be the great Twin Brethren
To whom the Dorians pray.
Back comes the chief in triumph
Who, in the hour of fight,
Hath seen the great Twin Brethren
In harness on his right.
Castor and Pollux were a common object of adjuration among the Romans, and the slang of the present day , "By Jiminy, " is a survival of the old Roman oath. As guardians of
the Twins were inscribed on the Roman silver coins. The "Pence" of the good Samaritan bore their figures, where they were represented as two horsemen. They also appear on coin types of as early date as from 431 to 370 B.C. Rome
Virgil thus writes concerning these illustrious Twins:
Castor and Pollux first in martial force,
One bold on foot, and one renowned for horse.
And Martial in like vein:
Castor alert to tame the foaming steed
And Pollux strong to deal the manly deed.
After returning from Colchis the brothers waged a successful war against the pirates who infested the
Hellespont, from which circumstance they have ever since been regarded as " the sailor's stars, " and the friends and protectors of navigation. It is related that Neptune had rewarded their brotherly love by giving them power over wind and wave, that they might assist the shipwrecked.
Safe comes the ship to Haven
Through billows and through gales,
If once the great Twin Brethren
Set shining on the sails.
In the Argonautic expedition, during a violent storm, it is said two flames of fire, "St. Elmo" or "St. Helen's light, " were seen to play around the heads of Castor and Pollux, and immediately the tempest ceased, and the sea was calm. In honour of the Twins, these lights were some- times known as "Ledean lights," and sailors believed that whenever both fires appeared in the sky, it would be fair weather, but when only one appeared, there would be storms.
In the Odes of Horace, Mr. Gladstone's translation, we read:
So Leda's twins, bright shining, at their beck
Oft have delivered stricken barks from wreck.
Homer in his Hymn to Castor and Pollux thus alludes to their supposed influence over the sea:
These are the Powers who earth-born mortals save
And ships, whose flight is swift along the wave
When wintry tempests o'er the savage sea
Are raging, and the sailors tremblingly
Call on the Twins of Jove with prayer and vow,
Gathered in fear upon the lofty prow,
And sacrifice with snow-white lambs, the wind
And the huge billow bursting close behind,
Even then beneath the weltering waters bear
The staggering ship -they suddenly appear,
On yellow wings rushing athwart the sky,
And lull the blasts in mute tranquillity,
And strew the waves on the white ocean's bed,
Fair omen of the voyage; from toil and dread
The sailors rest, rejoicing in the sight, A
nd plough the quiet sea in safe delight.
The appearance of the Twins, Castor and Pollux, was hailed as the harbinger of fair summer weather, and they were symbolised by the figure of two stars over a ship. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that
St. Paul sailed from Malta to in an Alexandrian ship whose sign was Castor and Pollux, and among the Romans it was very common to place the effigies of the Twins in the prows of vessels. Syracuse
Castor and Pollux became enamoured of the betrothed daughters of Leucippus, brother of Tyndarus, and resolved to supplant their rivals. A battle ensued, in which Castor killed Lynceus, and was himself killed by Idas. Pollux there- upon killed Idas, but being himself immortal, and most tenderly attached to his brother, he was unwilling to survive him. He therefore besought Jupiter to restore Castor to life. Jupiter granted his request, and made Castor immortal. Consequently as long as one was upon earth, so long was the other detained in the infernal regions, and they thus alternately lived and died every day.
As Homer puts it
By turns they visit this etherial sky,
And live alternate and alternate die.
This idea bears out the alternation of daylight and darkness, and the analogy between the days and nights of equal duration before mentioned. Jupiter further rewarded their fraternal attachment by changing them both into a constellation, under the name of "Gemini," the Twins, which it is strangely pretended never appear together, but when one rises the other sets, and so on alternately. Castor and Pollux were worshipped both by the Greeks and Romans, who sacrificed white lambs upon their altars to them. In the Hebrew zodiac the constellation of the Twins refers to the tribe of Benjamin; and according to Dr. Seiss, the Gemini represented the mystic union of Christ and His redeemed. Schiller regarded the constellation as representing St. James the Elder. The Egyptians represented the Twins as the two gods, Horus, the Elder, and the Younger, and strangely enough also regarded them as Two Sprouting Plants. The Gemini have also been called "David and Jonathan," "Adam and Eve," "the Twin Sons of Rebecca," Jacob and Esau. The Eskimos recognise in Castor and Pollux the two door-stones of an igloo, the name for their snow huts.
The Arabs regarded these twin stars as two Peacocks, and on the Euphratean star list they appear as " the Great Twins, " and " the Heaven and Earth Pair."
Allen tells us that in
they always were prominent as "the Aswins," or "Horsemen," a name also found in other parts of the sky for other Hindu twin deities. A Buddhist zodiac had in their place a woman holding a golden cord. Castor and Pollux were regarded as twins by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the aborigines of the India . In South Pacific Islands they were called "the Young Men." The South African Bushmen on the contrary called them "the Young Women, the wives of the eland," their great antelope. Gemini, the Twins 207 There appear on the Peruvian star chart of Salcamayhua two figures that resemble the Gemini, and one of the symbols for the Twins was a Pile of Bricks, referring to the building of the first city. Australia
Astrologically considered, this constellation was most favorably regarded, portending genius, goodness, and liberality. It is of the House of Mercury and its native will be tall and straight, with dark eyes, brown hair, and active ways; in character versatile, contradictory, and unselfish. It governs the arms and shoulders and rules over the south-west parts of
England, America, Flanders, and Lombardy. It is the ruling sign for those born between May 20th and June 21st. The flower is the May- flower or trailing arbutus, and the gem, the beryl. In the early Chinese solar zodiac this constellation figured as "the Ape," and the Chinese astrologers claimed that if Gemini was invaded by Mars, war and a poor harvest would ensue. Aristotle has left an interesting record of the occultation at two different times of some of the stars of Gemini, by the planet Jupiter, the earliest observations of this nature of which we have knowledge, and made probably about the middle of the fourth century B.C. No reference to Castor and Pollux would be complete without quoting Mrs. Martin's tribute to them in The Friendly Stars: "The constellation Gemini is the third spring sign of the zodiac, and it is easy to see how the mere beauty of its chief stars, Castor and Pollux, may have fastened upon it the reputation of responsibility for the beautiful weather that comes early in June. At this season of the year position, atmosphere, and surroundings all combine to enhance the beauty and accentuate the individuality of these two beautiful stars. ... In a comparatively starless environment the twin stars, beloved of sailors, dominate the western sky and shine side by side like two eyes benignly set to keep a protecting watch upon the world. It is not the sailor alone whose fancy is pleased with the kindly vigil they seem to keep. A landsman, too, may have pleasanter dreams if he will but peep through the western window and exchange friendly glances with them before settling down for the night."
Pollux is now the brighter of the two stars, although three hundred years ago, Castor was probably the lucida of the constellation. Castor is a beautiful star, in fact Sir John Herschel called it the largest and finest of all the double stars in our hemisphere. In a three- inch telescope with a power of ninety diameters, these twin suns present a charming appearance. This is a binary system, with a period somewhere between 250 and 1000 years. According to Allen this star is approaching the earth at the rate of 18.5 miles a second, while Pollux is receding from us at the rate of one mile each second. Pollux is fifty-four light years distant, and is one of the stars much used in navigation in taking lunar observations. In astrology it was a fortunate star, portending eminence and renown.
The Twin Stars are 4.5° apart and this distance was known to the Arabs as "the Ell," a measure of length. In reality Pollux is two hundred trillions of miles farther from us than Castor. There is only eleven minutes differ- ence in the time of culmination of Castor and Pollux, so they may both be regarded as on the meridian at 9 p.m., Feb. 24th.
Gamma e Xi Geminorum represented to the Arabs the brand made by a hot iron on the neck of a camel, also the star which shines with a sharp light. Delta Geminorum is a double star, known to the Arabs as " Wasat, " meaning the " Middle, " i. e. of the constellation, says Allen. The Chinese called it " Ta Tsun, " the Great Wine Jar." Just north of this star is the radiant point of the meteors known as "the Geminids," visible early in October. Epsilon and Zeta Germinorum bear respectively the Arab names "Mebsuta" and "Mekbuda." According to Allen Eta Geminorum bears the name of "Propus." On Burritt's map this star name is given to a fifth magnitude star a few degrees south and west of Eta. Eta is noted as marking the locality where Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, on the 13th of March, 1781. He thought at first that it was a comet, and reported it as such. Maskelyne, however, suspected its planetary nature, and the succeeding year it was announced as a new planet by Lexell and
La Place. "Continental astronomers designated the planet as 'Herschel" and we find this title in text-books as late as fifty years ago. Bode suggested the present title Uranus, to conform to the mythological nomenclature of the other planets, and because the name of the oldest god was especially applicable to the oldest, the most distant body then known to our system."
R. H. Allen, Star Names and Their Meanings.
There is a star of the fifth magnitude, just west of Mi. Geminorum, which is noteworthy as marking the location of the summer solstice, in the tropic of Cancer, the place occupied by the sun on the longest day of the year, and is moreover the dividing limit between the torrid and north temperate zones. Gemini contains a beautiful star cluster in M 35.
La Place thus describes this magnificent object: "A marvellously striking object. No one can see it for the first time without an exclamation. . . . The field is perfectly full of brilliant stars, unusually equal in magnitude and distribution over the whole area. Nothing but a sight of the object can convey an adequate idea of its exquisite beauty."
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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