by F. Graham Millar
RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada)
use with permission of the late copyright-holding author and based on
the author's significant pioneer article which appeared in the Journal
of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 89, No. 4, Aug.
Goliath and ancient Star Positions and Meteor Showers
has Sanskrit roots defining him as the original Cupid, a bow-hunter. We
do not find Balor/Concubar on the Gundestrup Cauldron. For him we may
look elsewhere for one or more of the motifs - a single eye, blindness,
a weapon piercing the eye in the back of his head, the piercing of the
head, or beheading.
is reputed to be blind (Allen 1963); no other constellation bears this
attribute. The head of Orion is represented by only one star, Meissa
(Allen 1963). It is a double in which the brighter star is pale white
and of magnitude 3.5. To the naked eye this is a dim star, not visible
through hazy cloud, so on occasion Orion is blind or lacks a head.
Astrologically, then, Balor/Concubar can be identified with Orion.
is today a sloping figure. A vertical struck through him is tangent to
the locus of the pole at about 3000 BC; he was vertical then. This date
broadly sets the time of origin of the myth of David and Goliath,
perhaps as early as 3500 BC.
star positions by which the ancients kept track of the calendar may be
used to set a date for the formation of the myth giving a result in
agreement with dates suggested on other grounds. These positions were
when a star makes its first seasonal appearance on the eastern horizon
just before dawn.
when a star stands on the zenith meridian. After its heliacal rising, a
star rises a little earlier each night until, halfway into its season
of visibility, it is up all night. It then culminates at midnight. The
nonsetting circumpolar stars can culminate, either low in the north
(inferior) or overhead (superior).
when a setting star makes its last seasonal appearance on the western
horizon just after sunset.
precession, around 3500 BC Boötes culminated in the inferior position
August 4th, Lughnasadh (Lugh's Day). Orion was then low in the
southeast. He would remain in the sky until his heliacal setting about
November 4th, Samhain (Summer's End).
the interval between those dates he was exposed to the weapon of Lugh,
whose long arm was extended toward him. Succumbing at Samhain, Orion
went to the Otherworld. The Finn version is explicit: Finn lured the
wizard over the cliff, that is, to the Otherworld.
weapons in the myth may have been inspired by a meteor shower. A
meteor, or shooting star, is vividly mythologized as a thunderbolt, a
thrown spear, a glinting sword, or a sword half-drawn from the scabbard
and reinserted. Meteors originate from solid particles, usually only
grain-sized, that fall from space into the atmosphere where they burn
in a white-hot glow. Some, believed to be remnants of comets, occur in
showers of a few days duration centred on the date when their orbit
intersects the Earth's orbit.
year to year showers may vary in the maximum number visible per hour. A
shower comes from a definite direction in space, and by perspective the
meteors seem to radiate from a point on the celestial sphere called the
radiant. A shower takes its name from the constellation in which the
all the constellations, only three bear the name of a mythical hero and
at the same time contain a meteor radiant. Perseus is one, but he can
be identified with Mithra and so is disregarded here. Hercules and
Orion remain, the possessors of the thrown weapons. Never in any age
has Orion been visible at the time of the Herculids, since at that time
the Sun is invariably close to Orion, outblazing him.
is not the radiant for a major meteor shower, and neither is Corona
Borealis (Sherrod 1981). However, Hercules/Aed/Vulcan was the Smith who
made the weapons. It was only possible for Hercules to give the bolts
to Bootes. (As a parallel, Saul gave David his armour - I Samuel
17:38). Bootes then flung the bolts with his sling, Corona Borealis.
3000 BC, Orion was visible from August to October. Bootes, low in the
north on August 4th, was in position to bombard him until his heliacal
setting - but not without opposition from Orion, as implied by a Vedic
hymn in praise of Indra for slaying the dragon Vrtra: Vrtra fought
back. The same is implied in the story of Culhwch. Vrtra's weapon was
perhaps an Orionid meteor.
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