Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pleiades – the Ancients homosexual constellation.

Since ancient Rome (and perhaps earlier) the constellation of the Pleiades was known to the western astrological traditions for its association with male homosexuality, symbolised by the “seven sisters” it's link to the modern age, although a weak echo of its once strong song, it still survives along side the stereotypical interpretations and associations of effeminate males – thankfully though it's range of meaning and inspired virtues are far from a slur on the gay soul, suggesting a evolutionary growth and union of the internal being to a more unified and balanced personality, beyond a sinplistic embodiment of male assertiveness but a more holistic and truthful balance of polarity.
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Astronomically, the Pleiades is located in a corner of the zodiac sign of the Venusian ruled Taurus and consists of several hundred stars about 500 light years from Earth. Most often with an unaided eye six stars are usually visible, at especially auspicious times the seventh Pleiadian star can also be seen, more than a dozen may be seen using field glasses, and several dozen more than that with even a basic telescope (making the Pleiades a favourite object of observation for amateur astronomers) as well as love lorn astronomers of the gone by ages.
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Mythologically, since the days of ancient Greece the myths surrounding the Pleiades always speak of the Seven Sisters (a questionable name that has never the less helped preserve its lineage as being a gay constellation) who were divine sisters, caught amongst the adventures with various gods and goddesses whom in there voyage to true individuality and rebellion of social expectations took flight in the form of doves, a symbol of love, and eventually settled among the stars.
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According to tradition they would stand though out the ages as a reminder to those that would follow in there steps of revolution, promising that all burdens endured would lead to a greater brightness that would withstand the darkness of mans own ignorance, as well as become a part of the divine onlookers that searched the earth from the heavens for those that shone with the illumination and cause that they themselves once stood for.
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Historically, by the time the ancient Romans were compiling the known astrological literature of the world, the Pleiades were firmly linked to homosexuality. Unusually as a civilization, the Romans did little to advance or develop the study of astrology on their own, but what they did do to a large extent was to codify and organize earlier astrological traditions from Greece, Egypt and perhaps others that are now lost to us.
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Modern research into the astrology of the ancients is still in its early stages and while it will always remain somewhat clouded by the passage of time, and the natural adaption of those that followed it and held it alive through the ages, it has not yet being discovered how or why the ancient astrologers connected in essence; homosexuality to the Pleiades.
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But given the known lack of imagination amongst Roman astrologers, it is likely they borrowed the association between the Pleiades and homosexuality from an earlier civilization.
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For instance the ancient Greek culture, which the Romans greatly admired, to a degree valued and accepted homosexual relationships alongside heterosexual ones, and what we do know about early Roman astrology is much of the interpretations of which the Romans compiled had been derived from the earlier ancient Greek society.
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Sadly in true imperial Roman style, the Roman astrologers failed to preserve any attribution about where the references to the Pleiades came from.
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Instead the Romans simply spelled out what the then current thinking was about the constellation, which historically is nothing less then a shame as although it has maintained the connection, it has lead to the origins of such a link to be lost among the ebbing sands of time.
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Here is an example of Pleiades astrological lore from the Roman astrology of 1900 years ago as found in the "Astronomica", Manilius, 1st century AD. (Edited and translated by G. P. Goold, 1977 by President and Fellows of Harvard College):
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"The Pleiades, sisters who vie with each other's radiance. Beneath their influence devotees of Bacchus (god of wine and ecstasy) and Venus (goddess of love) are born into the kindly light, and people whose insouciance runs free at feasts and banquets and who strive to provoke sweet mirth with biting wit.
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"They will always take pains over personal adornment and an elegant appearance they will set their locks in waves of curls or confine their tresses with bands, building them into a thick topknot, and they will transform the appearance of the head by adding hair to it; they will smooth their hairy limbs with the porous pumice, loathing their manhood and craving for sleekness of arm.
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"They adopt feminine dress, footwear donned not for wear but for show, and an affected effeminate gait. They are ashamed of their sex; in their hearts dwells a senseless passion for display, and they boast of their malady, which they call a virtue. To give their love is never enough, they will also want their love to be seen".
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Admittedly it is easy to accept that the ancient Roman astrologers were not advocates of Gay Liberation (although Roman society was remarkably tolerant of homosexual behaviour. Several Roman emperors were gay or bisexual, and one, Emperor Trajan, had his "paedogogium", a travelling harem of young men which accompanied him on his journeys throughout the empire) but it is never the less interesting that while the ancients did not ascribe homosexuality to the Pleiades as the constellation's prime attribute, they do quite often (and in fact most often) stipulate that it is a secondary attribute.
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(The primary attributes were commonly said to be successful journeys, particularly for sailors, success in agriculture, and success through use of intelligence. Negative omens for the constellation included blindness and wantonness.)
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Unusually though the references I was able to find from ancient Rome seemed to imply a homosexual association with the Pleiades are for men only. This may of course be due to the record keeping and an unusually ignorance of the very existence of lesbians, even among the ancients. So far at the moment I am unaware of such similar correlation between the Pleiades themselves and women amongst the Roman astrological writings, however, this said there are extant fragments from the ancient Greek lesbian poet, Sappho, making references to the Pleiades, which may shine allot of light on the possibility of it being a constellation of Homosexality itself beyond that of male generalisations.
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Δέδυκε μεν ἀ σελάννακαὶ Πληΐαδεσ, μέσαι δὲνύκτεσ πάρα δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα,ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω. [transcription]
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The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the time is going by and I recline alone.
The sinking moon has left the sky, The Pleiades have also gone. Midnight comes--and goes, the hours flyAnd solitary still, I lie.
The Moon has left the sky,Lost is the Pleiads' light;It is midnight,And time slips by, But on my couch alone I lie.
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Translation by J. A. Symonds, 1883.
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This singularly beautiful fragment is quoted by Hephaestion from the "Hymn to Aphrodite", it was the first portion of the Poems of Sappho to be printed in 1554 and seeing as it deals with the female homosexual impulses of love and desired union it offers up much food for thought in relation to the possibility of the Pleiads having associations with the gay female form.
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The guidelines to astrology set by the ancient Romans were (more or less) the reference point for western astrology for the next thousand years following the fall of Rome. It is ture that during the Middle Ages, and indeed until very recently these references to homosexuality were anything but complimentary, but at least the homosexual presence was being noted, however negatively.
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Since modern Western astrology traces its roots back directly to the Roman codification of the earlier astrological studies, one might leap to the conclusion that the association of the Pleiades with homosexuality was preserved assuredly to the present times.
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Alas, that's not quite what happened, although not for any specific reasons of anti-homosexual intellectualism (although that was common enough in astrology up to and including the twentieth century see my earlier rant on that issue two posts down), but instead it is mainly because of an unrelated development in the evolution of western astrology, in which the Pleiadian connection began to wain.
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Over the past 200 years or so in Western astrology, study of the so-called fixed stars has fallen from use because of technical advances in astronomy. Fixed stars (and this includes non-zodiac constellations) were, up to the late 1700s, an important part of interpreting a natal chart.
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But better telescopes began an era of discovery of new outer planets, starting with Uranus in the late 1700s, and western astrologers have dwelt significantly on the new planetary bodies the astronomers have been locating ever since.
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The Pleiades constellation is simply another (minor) grouping of fixed stars which has been swept aside by western astrologers as heavies such as Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, the asteroids, Chiron (the centaurs), and the trans-Neptunian planetary bodies have grabbed the attention of most modern astrologers. Modern thinking (and I in part subscribe to this thinking) is that these newly-discovered planetary bodies are far more interesting and useful to our current evolution and situations than the fixed stars ever were.
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Still, realizing that we may have lost something by forgetting our past, a few modern astrologers are starting to research the forgotten ancient astrological methodologies to see if any are still relevant. Some of the ancient astrological techniques likely will be worth dusting off and re-incorporating into our modern study. But frankly, I have my doubts that the Pleiades connection to homosexuality will even make the cut, and for this I can think of two main reasons.
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First, as I expound at length elsewhere in this blog (again see two posts down for my rant) no astrological configuration of any sort can be called a "homosexual signature," notwithstanding the repeated failed attempts by many astrologers to try and find one.
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The second (and surely the most certain) reason why Pleiades may never regain its once and former association with homosexuality, is that when it comes to an appreciation and development of ancient studies there seems to be a strong vein of apathy among astrologers as well as those of a homosexual persuasion.
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Astrology once the science of divination and the study of stars, has become nothing more then fortune telling, instead of being a tool for development and foresight it remains in its secondary role of guidance – although that in itself is an authentic lineage and indeed has its place a total dedication to this narrow perception is limiting us to never fully utilising and appreciating the ancients in all there variety and humanity.
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Gay flag association:
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It may also be interesting to note that a few years ago I noticed that the seven sisters are a somewhat mimic of and symbolic to the seven virtues of the gay pride flag, along side the qualities of true individuality they are easily held within a harmonic spiritual embrace of both the community and its potential future growth.
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According to the early work of Diodorus Siculus in his records, Library of History, the Pleiades were the daughters of the Titan Atlas and the nymph Pleione, and each are said to hold a coloured candle for there greatest virtue:
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Electra – red for strength
Alcyone – orange for courage
Asterope – yellow for faith
Celaeno – green for mercy
Maia – blue for generosity
Taygete – violet for Hope
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Merope – Justice had only on occasion a candle, some say this was because Merope, who was ashamed of her love for the mortal Sisyphus (Σίσυφος) often hide her true face from the eyes of the outside world.
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It doesn't take much imagination as to why through the synchronistic name associations, the rainbow colour array and the all to often familiar behaviour has in part allowed the Pleiades to linger on as a constellation that in part reflects the homosexual spirit through the ages... and long may it continue!

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