Monday, 17 October 2016

Scorpio: death and danger

October sees the meteor showers from the constellation of Orion, the Greek hunter of myth who was said to have been killed by Scorpio, the scorpion, this month's Zodiac sign.

Carved Scorpion sign,  on the Royal Portal voussoirs, Chartres Cathedral

The medieval figures show the signs of the Zodiac, interspersed with the traditional Labours of the Months: a Book of Hours for the populace, as well as the super-rich, representing the heavenly and earthly cycles of the year.

To cross the Scorpion was always dangerous.  The Egyptian goddess Serket with her scorpion headdress, protects the dead, as in Tutankhamens' tomb figures and inscriptions, while in his epic poem Metamorphoses, the Roman writer Ovid vividly recounts how Phaeton met his fate, recklessly driving his father the sun god's chariot across the heavens.

 Bk 2. The Fall of Phaethon:
"To add to his fear, he now perceived the monstrous beasts of huge size which lay scattered over the spangled face of heaven.  There is a certain place where the Scorpion stretches out his pincers in two hollow arcs, and with his tail and curving claws outspread on either side sprawls over two signs of the Zodiac.  When the boy saw him, exuding his baneful poison and menacing him with his curved sting, he was so completely unnerved and numb with fear that he dropped the reins.  They fell from his hands and lay loose on the horses' backs.  At once, the team galloped away out of their course.  With none to restrain them, they sped through regions of air unknown, and rushed wherever their headlong career carried them, quite beyond control. They dashed against the stars set in highest heaven, and hurled the car along where there was no pathway, now soaring up to the heights of the sky, now hurtling down its steep incline, to be borne along close to the earth,  The moon was amazed to see her brother's horses lower than her own, and smoke rose from the scorched clouds." © translation M.M.Innes

Detail from Horoscope from Book of Birth of Iskander
Wellcome  Library Images

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