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Pagans in the sky. (Language Corner).

Preaching the gospel of one sole monotheistic God, the disciples of Jesus Clarist set out to purge the Roman empire of its multitude of pagan divinities, who stubbornly resisted these efforts. That's why, even today, Heaven is not only populated by Christian angels, but also by planets called Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, i.e. Roman deities worshipped as stars.

Italians still call the moon sailing across the night sky Luna, the name of the Roman moon goddess. But the heavenly abode of Lady Luna is also haunted by Greek mythology's Orion, a great womanizer and fierce hunter who freed the island of Chins of its wild beasts. Blinded by an enemy, an oracle promised him the restoration of his eyesight by travelling to the furthest point in the east and turning his eyes toward the sun god Helios as he rose from the sea. (Linguistically, Hellos still exists today as the term for the gaseous element Helium, abundant in the suns atmosphere, which was derived from this god's name).

Having readied that eastermost point, the sun god's sister Ens fell in love with Orion, so her brother dutifully restored his eyesight. Later Orion and Ens made love on the sacred island of Delos, a sacrilege which angered the god Apollo. Since then, Ens-the goddess of dawn-has shamefully blushed every morning, which explains the rosy coloring of the sky in the early hours of the morning. The Romans knew Ens as Aurora, which is still the Italian word for "dawn."

However, the wrathful Apollo concocted a plan to have Orion murdered by the goddess Artemis. In sorrow over her deed, Artemis transformed Orion into a glittering stellar constellation in the firmament, where every night the eternalized womanizer continues in his vain pursuit of the seven daughters of Atlas, the Pleiades, whose constellation rises just above the horizon of Orion, thus eternally out of his reach.

And who is this said Atlas? Humans should feel grateful to this Titan, condemned in ancient times to support the sky on his shoulders at the edge of the world-something he does ever so well. The ancients identified the edge of the world with the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, whose peaks, legend has it, supported the sky. Today Atlas is a key to mankind's knowledge of world geography, primarily in the form of a collection of maps called an "atlas," a designation which probably derives its meaning from early illustrations showing Atlas supporting the globe.
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Title Annotation:astronomical bodies named after Roman dieties
Author:Bucher, Marcel
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Previous Article:Lost and found. (Only in Switzerland).
Next Article:Pathfinders. (Only in Switzerland).

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